“The Greatest Testimony”
Every day, in nations all over the world, the judicial system is at work. People are on trial for violations of the law and crimes committed. Prosecutors and defense attorneys work diligently to represent their clients. Those on trial hope for the best, and those offended seek justice. A great deal of outcome depends on what we call a witness. That person, or persons, is responsible for sharing the facts of what happened. He or she gives a testimony concerning what took place; and, that testimony is to be true, trustworthy and accurate. We are familiar with such a system. We have seen the process in action and perhaps have even taken part in it ourselves. Well, the statement written by the apostle Paul is what I might consider one of the greatest testimonies about Jesus Christ ever recorded. It is found in the letter called 1st Timothy, and today it receives our attention. This testimony about Jesus Christ is impressive. It is true and accurate. It presents Jesus in a glorious light, and highlights His free gift of salvation. For the next few minutes, on "Key to the Kingdom," we will study Paul's words and consider how he writes them from a firsthand experience. His testimony about the Lord is encouraging and full of hope. It is something to carefully consider, especially if we find ourselves headed in the wrong direction. I hope you will stay tuned to this station as we study together the lesson entitled, "The Greatest Testimony."
The man who came into my office that cold and dreary day obviously needed some help. Oh, it was not the kind of help people typically ask for, things like food or clothes or money. This man had those things. Rather he needed some spiritual help. His life was in a mess. He was headed in the wrong direction as fast as he could go and he realized that he needed to stop. The kind of life he was living was not good and right; and, he even wondered if God could forgive such a sinner as himself. He thought he was not worthy of God's love. He had no relationship with God and he seemed to have no hope for his life. Well, after talking about Jesus Christ for a while, and His free gift of salvation, the man decided he needed to put his faith in Jesus and to turn away from the life he was living. He decided to no longer live a life of sin and rebellion, but rather he decided to make a commitment and to give his life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was then baptized into Jesus for the forgiveness of his sin, and he gladly received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Well, that is a genuine and true story, and it perhaps reminds us of a similar story that is found in the New Testament book called Acts. Oh, it does not involve an office or a cold or a dreary day, but it does involve a man who is headed in the wrong direction just as fast as he could go. The story is found in chapter 9, and parts of the story are repeated again in chapters 22 and 26. The story is about a man named Saul. We might know him better as the apostle Paul. One day he and his friends were traveling down the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. He had letters of authority from the high priest to go and persecute all of those who belong to The Way, called Jesus Christ. He even would drag them out of their places of worship and throw them into prison, and that's exactly what he wanted to do as he would take them back to Jerusalem. Well, as Saul and his friends were traveling down that road, there was a great light that shined down upon them from heaven, and the voice of God said, "Why are you persecuting me Saul?" And Saul looked up from the ground and he said, "Who are you Lord?" And God said, "Get up and go into the city of Damascus, and there, it will be told what you are supposed to do." That great light had blinded Saul. He was there on the ground. And so the men picked him up and they took him into Damascus. They met a man by the name of Ananias. Well, God had been working with Ananias, just as He had worked with Saul there on that road, and He prepared Ananias to receive Saul and to share with him the Good News message of Jesus Christ. And that is exactly what happened. Ananias opened up and shared with Saul about the Lord and the salvation that He had brought into this world. And Saul made the commitment, right then and there, to turn around his life and to give it to Jesus Christ. He decided to put his faith in Jesus, and, in fact, the Scripture tells us he was baptized into Christ on that occasion. Something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see once again. His eyes were also opened spiritually as he saw a new way and a new direction to go; and, Saul, on that occasion, received the Holy Spirit. Yes, he was a chosen instrument to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles and to kings and to the people of Israel. We know what happened after that, don't we? Saul became a great spokesman for the Lord, for the cause of Jesus Christ. Now, one of the men who traveled with Paul, as he was later known on some of his missionary trips, was named Timothy. Oh, he was a fine young man and Paul had taught him about the way of the Lord. He taught him many things about being God's servant and a faithful teacher. He encouraged him to develop spiritual leaders and also to correct some things that were not right. Well, at the end of Paul's life, he recognized the need to pass on his ministry and his mission to someone like Timothy; so, he wrote to him two letters, 1st and 2nd Timothy. And these are perhaps the last two letters that Paul wrote, certainly of which we have a record. Timothy knew Paul. Paul had entrusted to him a great deal of wisdom and information about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with other people. And in this letter called 1st Timothy, he wanted him to know the driving force behind his life. He reminded him that it was only because of God's grace and God's love and God's mercy that he was able to do what he did. Oh, Paul's message to this young man is inspiring. He reminds Timothy that the Lord has given him the very same gift of salvation that he had received, and now Timothy also has the responsibility to not hold that in but rather to share it with others. Let's look at some of the things that Paul wrote to Timothy on that occasion. In 1 Timothy 1 beginning with verse 12, we find these words. <I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me trustworthy, appointing me to His service. And even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.> Isn't that a great testimony? Paul writes these words to Timothy, reminding him of his own salvation, how he experienced the love and the mercy and the grace that came from God through His son Jesus Christ. And even though he considered himself the worst of all sinners, God's mercy covered that and gave him the opportunity to start his life over again. Yes, when Paul received the Lord’s Salvation, it turned around his life. He was going in the wrong direction very fast. In ignorance and unbelief, he was working against God instead of working with God. He persecuted followers of Jesus Christ, even throwing them into prison. We might say this man, known as Saul, had a misguided passion. Oh, he was passionate about what he was doing. He thought he was doing what was good and right in the sight of God, and he was going as fast as he could in that direction; but, he was misguided, he was off track until he experienced that occasion with the Lord. Yes, Saul was doing everything he could to stop the advancement of God's kingdom instead of helping it grow, and things would get worse if he continued on that path. But things begin to change after that encounter with the Lord. He became perhaps the greatest evangelist this world has ever known, outside of Jesus Christ himself. He helped people turn from darkness to light. He encouraged people to turn away from the power of Satan and into the glorious light of Jesus Christ. And as Paul did all of that, he suffered much for the cause of Christ. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 11, Paul lists a number of things he had to endure as that evangelist. We notice that he was rejected by many of his own Jewish people; he was hungry; he was cold, on occasion; he was shipwrecked out in the deep for several days and nights; he was beaten with rods and left for dead; he was even stoned, almost to death. And yet, none of that kept Paul from doing what God had called upon him to do. None of that took away Paul's joy or thankfulness for the free gift of salvation he had received. Yes, God had set him on a new path. He went from being the worst of all sinners to telling other people who were sinful about how God had changed his life and how He could change their life too. Yes, Paul was no longer a persecutor of those who followed Jesus, but he led other people to Jesus. He was a recipient of God's abundant grace and mercy and love, and Paul wanted Timothy to understand all of that. Paul wanted to remind Timothy of the importance of what had happened, not only in his life, but also in the life of Timothy. And so, that's why he said, "This statement is worthy of full acceptance and your full attention; that, Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners." Well, here in chapter 1, Paul also lists a number of sins, a number of things that were going on there in Ephesus, where Timothy was ministering, that needed his attention and that needed correction. Let's read part of what Paul wrote along that line, there in chapter 1, verses 8 through 11: <We know that the Law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the Law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers -and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the Gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me.> Paul identified some sinful behavior that was going on among people that was keeping them from entering into that right relationship with God. And as Paul wrote those things, no doubt, he wrote them from his own personal experience. He knew what it was like to be unholy and irreligious and a persecutor, perhaps even a murderer of people who followed Jesus Christ. And he wanted Timothy to know about that. He wanted Timothy to correct some of those things there in Ephesus. And yet, through his faith in Jesus Christ, God had saved Paul. He had saved Timothy also. And now, Timothy was the man to carry on this message and this mission, this ministry, if you will, of the apostle. He was to continue to share that Good News with others. But, we have to pause and ask ourselves the question, what exactly did that Good News message contain? Well, throughout His ministry, Jesus made it clear that part of His purpose was to bring salvation to this world. We find a number of statements in the New Testament about that salvation. For example, Jesus himself said, that, "the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost," Luke 19:10; "He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for others," Matthew 20:28; "He came to save the world, not to condemn it," John 3:17; Jesus also came, "to preach the Good News of the kingdom," Mark 1:38; He came, "so that we might have an abundant life in Him," John 10:10. Yes through all of those statements, plus many more, we notice that Jesus brought hope into this world. He brought freedom from sin and from Satan and from a world of darkness. He brought Good News and the promise of an eternal life. Jesus came to deliver people from darkness and to transfer them into His kingdom of light. Yes, Jesus came to this world to save people from everything bad. He came to save people from sin and from Satan and from self reliance. Yet in the same way, He also came to save people for everything good. He saved them for salvation and for service to others and for an eternal home with His Father in heaven. Well, as we look here closely at 1st Timothy, we notice Paul experienced those things firsthand. He knew what it was like to live without God's gift of salvation. He knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in and not a part of God's family. But now he knew a better way. Now he knew Jesus Christ. Now he knew the One who had saved him and given him another opportunity. Before Saul became a Christian, he was headed in a direction that was not good. And yet, through God's grace and mercy, His love, through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, now Saul had a new direction. I want you to pause right now and think for just a moment. Consider the direction you are traveling. Consider the road on which you are going down in your life. Are you headed in the right direction? Are there are some changes, perhaps, that God would call upon you to make that would further align you with His will and purposes? I'm certainly in no position to evaluate your life, only you can do that, but it might look like the kind of life that Paul describes here in chapter 1, in verses 9 and 10. Before you go any further, however, pause for just a moment. Consider a new direction. Consider a new and better life that God has in store for you through the salvation that He brings through His son, Jesus Christ. As Saul encountered the Lord that day on the road to Damascus, his life changed forever. He confessed the name of Jesus Christ. He turned away from the sin in his life. He was baptized into Jesus. He was filled up with a Holy Spirit. His eyes were opened up spiritually, as he was given a new purpose and a new direction in life. God even changed his name from Saul to the apostle Paul. Yes, he now had a new identity. And Paul's encounter with the Lord on that occasion was the most dramatic and life changing event he ever experienced, and he never forgot it. In fact, he spent the rest of his life telling other people about it. And what he wrote here in 1st Timothy is perhaps one of the greatest testimonies of all time. It is a great statement for all of us to know and to understand about God's love and salvation, even for the worst of all sinners. Let's read it again, verse 16 of chapter 1: <But for that very reason, I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.> Yes, Jesus came into the world to save sinners, to show God's mercy. He came to display His unlimited patience and to give eternal life. Now, the good news today is that what God did through Christ for Paul, He does for you and for me. He changes our life. He gives us a new identity. And we respond to that free gift of His son, Jesus Christ, by believing upon Him and turning away from the sin in our life, and doing the very same things that the apostle Paul did. And then upon receiving that gift of love and salvation, we too praise Him, we too recognize what God has done for us and we tell others about it. And that's what Paul did there in verse 17: "To the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, and only God, be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen." Yes, once we receive the salvation that Paul received, we will spend our life praising God and honoring Him for His love and for His grace. For those who have received God's gift of salvation, this statement reminds us of where, perhaps, we have been in the past. It reminds us of, maybe, some of the mistakes we have made, and how through God's gift of His son Jesus, and through His grace and His mercy, we, too, have been given a second chance, another opportunity to walk with the Lord. We also reflect upon the glory of God, as seen in His son, and we spend our days giving Him praise and glory and honor. Well, my prayer for you today is that if you find yourself headed in the wrong direction that you would respond like Saul did on that road to Damascus, and in his time with Ananias, that you will allow God, through Jesus Christ, to change your life. I hope that you will accept God's free gift of grace and mercy and allow Him to point you in the direction that He needs you to go. Yes, my prayer for you is that you will recognize what God has done for you, and then you will spend the rest of your days giving that great testimony, just like the apostle Paul did, of God's amazing love and grace for you.
As I read and study my Bible, I am continually amazed at how many different descriptions of God that I find. Yes, throughout Scripture, God is defined as being a God of love and a God of forgiveness, a God of mercy, a God of salvation. And, no doubt, those are great characteristics and I appreciate those different views of God. They mean something to me and they make a difference in my life. There was one description of God, however, that sometimes I overlook. God is a God of compassion. Yes, God compassionately deals with me. He sees the problems and the stress and the difficulties. He sees the loss in my life and He deals tenderly with me. And I appreciate that about God, and perhaps you do too. You think about all the problems and trials, how they seem to be over your head and overwhelming and you need someone to come alongside you and to deal compassionately with you. That's God. In fact, we read in Isaiah chapter 54 and verse 8, "In my everlasting love, I will be compassionate to you." God continually loves us. He deals tenderly and compassionately with us. And we need that, don't we? We need a God who knows what's happening in our life and who doesn't overrun us, doesn't over empower us, but we can go to Him as our Father and know that He really does care. He really does see what is going on and He offers that everlasting love and that never ending compassion. When you feel overwhelmed by the things of this world, turn to your compassionate Father.
Thank you for being our guest today on "Key to the Kingdom." Hopefully, Paul's testimony about Jesus helped you consider your need for His salvation. Indeed, God loves us and wants us to receive His compassion, His grace and His mercy. If this lesson is something you would like to consider again, please visit our website at keytothekingdom.com. There you can download it in several different formats without any charge or obligation. Previous lessons are also on the website and may be of interest as well. Other information and resources, like two minute videos and one minute devotional thoughts, can easily be accessed. If you had not already downloaded our free app for smart-phones, I hope you will do so. The process takes less than a minute and it takes you directly to everything on the website. Roku® television and Facebook® are other ways to keep up with this ministry. Through them, you can find lessons and videos addressing a number of different topics and Bible passages. Also, feel free to call the number on the screen if you would like for someone to be in contact with you. Leave your name and phone number and we will be happy to respond very soon. Every week on this same channel, and several others, we offer messages from God's Word. They are designed to encourage, teach, and assist you in developing a deeper relationship with the Lord. I hope today's lesson has done just that. Thank you again for joining us for this broadcast. I do hope you will join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”