1 Timothy 1:12-20
This morning we are continuing our sermon series on Rest! Over the last few weeks, Pastor Harrison looked at what it means for us to enter into God’s rest and how to find peace (shalom) in our relatonships with others. Today we continue, wondering about inner peace—a personal quest for rest.
[READ 1 Timothy 1:12-20]
As in any Bible text, there’s just so much to unpack here! And the Bible is such a big book and we move through it together so widely; so it’s worth orienting ourselves each time we open God’s Word together. Where are we today? We’re in the last little bit of the New Testament, in a section called the “Pastoral Letters”. Did you know that the Bible contains personal letters? Books like Hebrews and Galatians are written to churches (groups) but Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are written first to individuals to encourage and direct them.
I said when I opened this series that we are going to talk about Rest as Sabbath (stopping from work and from exercising our power); Rest as Shalom (peace and flourishing); and Rest as Connection—connection with God, with others, and with ourselves. Let’s also not forget Rest as connection with creation. But today we’re focused on Rest as connection with ourselves. When I say “connecting with ourselves,” I mean knowing ourselves honestly and accurately as we are. Maybe you have not even considered that it is important to take time to know yourself!
A friend who is also a pastor recently told me a story about a member of his congregation who called him in need of a ride. When he picked her up, he found out that her car had been repossessed because she stopped making payments on it. What’s more, her electricity was being turned off and she had over $17,000 in credit card debt. “How did this happen?” He asked. Her answer: “I don’t know!” She really didn’t know! It took a few days of looking at her spending habits to find out that she was buying every meal, every day from a restaurant. She never went to the grocery store and never made food herself. Over months and years, she continued to spend more on food than she was making, even with a good job. This woman really didn’t know herself! She didn’t understand how much money she was making, she didn’t know how to cook or plan meals for herself. And she didn’t understand the consequences of her choices. She was unable to see that she needed help until a lot of damage was done!
Paul’s personal story and trustworthy saying
It may seem unrealistic to be so disconnected from your finances; but we are all running from or ignoring some part of ourselves. This is one of the ways the Bible talks about sin. Sin is not just harming some other person. Sin is also damaging ourselves. Isaiah says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way”. Some of us think with pride and self-righteousness about ourselves. We think of ourselves as kind and generous people to be friends with those around us—those not as good as me, not as pretty as me, and not as skilled as me. Others of us think too little of ourselves: We imagine that we are so messed up; so ugly; so unskilled as to be unlovable and unacceptable. Do you know which one you are? If you do not, I suggest that you do not know yourself. Perhaps you are so caught up with the busy pace of life that you do not reflect about yourself—on who you are—at all. But John Calvin says that the knowledge of God begins with knowing ourselves. We cannot find rest in God until we see ourselves accurately and understand our need for him.
The Apostle Paul knew himself. He says, “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man,” but, “the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1:13-14). This is the amazing thing about the grace of our Lord: God’s grace (favour!) offers rest to those who think too little of ourselves—because it lifts us up to heights we could have never achieved on our own. But the grace of Jesus Christ also offers rest to those who think too much of ourselves—because it frees us from the endless work of striving to maintain our position, our beauty, and our skills. It releases us from righteousness or shame based on our own strength—a goodness or badness that is temporary. The grace of Jesus Christ always invites us—whoever we are—into the eternal life, love, and faith that are ours only as a part of the family of God. The grace of Jesus Christ invites us to know ourselves more fully—the good and the bad—and maybe that’s a scary thing. But it also invites us to experience—in God—more love, more peace, and more rest than we ever thought possible.
Thus, Paul offers this trustworthy saying to Timothy, his spiritual son: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” Say it! If you think too much of yourself, you will not be able to say the last part. If you think too little of yourself, you will only be able to say the last part. Jesus Christ is the freedom and the rest that both of you are looking for—that all of us are looking for!
Paul’s command to his “son” Timothy: STAY (cf. 1:3)
I mentioned in passing above that Timothy was Paul’s spiritual son—and Paul refers to him that way! He calls him, “Timothy, my true son in the faith.” (1 Tim 1:2). Do you know yourself well enough to give yourself to someone else? Some of you will assume right away that I’m talking about marriage; but I’m not. Before I left on vacation, I painted a picture for you of the future of the church in the West. Do you remember what I said? The future of the church in the west, whatever it is and whoever remains, will be characterized by intimate relationships. I do not mean that a bunch of people are going to get married and have kids and band together. I mean that as people move around the globe at ever increasing speeds, the people of God will depend on one another more deeply, share fellowship more frequently, and be drawn into more intimate relationship by the Spirit. Paul’s relationship with Timothy is a beautiful picture for us of rest.
Acts 16 tells us that Timothy was born and raised in Derbe, a Roman city in Asia Minor. Timothy was in a similar biological family situation to Paul: his father was a Greek and his mother was a Jew. The first time Paul went to Derbe was on his first missionary journey. The city gets just a word of mention after people in Lystra believed Paul and Barnabas to be incarnations of Zeus and Hermes, then stoned them for denying it. Derbe was not at “the end of the world”—but you could see it from there. In other words, Derbe wasn’t much of anything special. Perhaps Paul met Timothy there as a young boy on his first missionary journey. Perhaps not. But when Paul returned to Lystra and Derbe on his second missionary journey, now with Silas, he picked up Timothy and Timothy began to travel with Paul and Silas. Timothy became a helper of Paul; by the end of Romans, Paul refers to him as a “coworker” or partner (Romans 16:21). They spent years together. Talks around the fire. Travels. Work. Vacations! Now in his personal letter to Timothy, he says, “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience…” (1:18). What command does Paul give to Timothy? When we look back to the top of the letter we find it!
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. (1 Timothy 1:3-6)
We know now that Timothy is from a nowhere corner of the Roman world. But Paul calls him to remain—to stay—in Ephesus and to play the role that God has called him to in the church there. Timothy, this small town boy, has now been called by Paul and by God to remain in the big city—the crossroads of the Roman Empire as it enters from Europe into Asia. Timothy is called to remain and to advance God’s work.
This is a powerful story for me because it is a story I resonate with. I grew up in a small town in what felt like a forgotten corner of Ontario. God has led me all over the world and in my travels and years living here and there I have found and followed other Christian men who have shared God’s love with me and spoken God’s words to me. Pastors, Christian leaders, even peers and friends. Some of those men I still get together with on a regular basis. Another one, I will go visit this fall in Spain. When Kaylee and I felt that God was calling us here, I also heard him calling us to stay; to remain and to advance God’s work here as long as I can.
If you do not know the joy of hearing God’s words of love spoken to you from and through others, then you do not know rest. If you have not received from others the loving words of God, the challenging words of God, and the exhortation to “keep going” from God and from others—then you do not know rest. When I am discouraged and tired, when I am frustrated—I can return to moments in my life—just as Timothy could have. The moment of squeezing Kaylee’s hand as our plane descended into YYC for the first time and we knew this was going to be our home. The moment of being blessed by an elder in my former congregation to go. The moment I caught God’s dream for River Park Church and sensed his passion for us to follow his vision—our vision. A moment last weekend, praying with co-workers in the gospel. Friends, if you do not have these moments in your life to turn back to, then you do not yet know the lasting rest that comes from God.
Rest vs. Being “handed over to Satan”
Despite the strong and foreign words, if you do not know the lasting rest from God, you may actually know what it is to be “handed over the Satan”. Paul says that “some have rejected [the faith and good conscience] and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to their faith.” He continues, saying, “Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1:19-20). This very strong expression is used one other place in the New Testament—in the context of a man committing sexual immorality with his mother. In that case, Paul says, “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5). In both cases, we see that handing someone over the Satan, though clearly painful, has a redemptive purpose. In both cases, we see that Paul wants the people who are sinning to experience the physical and spiritual consequences of their sin (a) outside of the community (b) so that they might repent and be restored. So Paul says that the man sinning with his body should experience suffering in his flesh, so that he will repent and be fully saved when Christ comes again. Likewise in our text, Hymenaeus and Alexander have “rejected [the faith and good conscience] and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to their faith.” Paul hands them over to Satan for the purpose that they “be taught not to blaspheme.” Satan is outside of the community of believers—the family of God—so these men too are put outside of the family. But what does it mean to be taught not to blaspheme? Many examples throughout Jesus’ ministry make it clear. Blaspheming is one of two things: it is saying that “I am God” or saying “God is not God.” Blaspheming is denying the power, authority, and goodness of God OR it is claiming the power, authority, and goodness of God for yourself. Sometimes blaspheming is both! Paul says that being put out of the family of God will create the situation in which these men will learn that they are not God and that God is who he says he is. No doubt, sadly, this learning will come through difficulty.
All of this builds to a question: have you experienced life outside of the community of God’s people? Life alone and isolated? And have you said with your mouth or believed in your heart, “I don’t need God! I have the power, authority, and goodness within myself to take care of all my needs!” If you have done these things, then you have experienced life “handed over to Satan.” This kind of life is the opposite of the rest that God intends for you. If this is you, let me sketch you in one word: “overwhelmed.” Are you overwhelmed? Have the worries and stresses of your life risen to such a point that you can’t manage anymore? You feel like you can’t find a way forward, but you don’t know how to stop either. Maybe you don’t even know how you things got to this point. It all just kind of “happened.” Brother, Sister; these may be the very things that God is using to teach you to rely on him, to return to him, and to rest in him. Here is a trustworthy saying: Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.
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