The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 6, 2019
1 Timothy 1:12-17
From Chaos to Charis!
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 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 unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now, to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Are you familiar with a poem entitled “Life is but a Weaving”? It is also known as “The Tapestry.” It goes like this:
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
I like this poem. I like it because it very nicely reminds us of a very important truth, a truth that we all too often forget. That truth centers on the fact that the Lord our God is the One who is weaving the tapestry of our life. God has a plan for each and every one of us. At times His plan for our life may seem rather chaotic— at least from our perspective. At times His plan for our life may be very different from what we had planned for our life. But as this poem reminds us, God’s plan is always the best plan!
I’d like you to remember this poem as we study our sermon text for today. Here in 1 Timothy chapter one the apostle Paul gives us a glimpse into the story of God’s plan for Paul’s life. In a nutshell Paul reveals to us that his life was a journey— a journey that I think can be described with the words of our sermon theme for today: From Chaos to Charis. Let’s note two things this morning. First let’s note that a life without Christ is indeed a life that is filled with chaos. Then let’s see that a life with Christ is truly a life that is overflowing with charis.
Right about now you might be wondering, what in the world is “charis”? So, before we proceed let me learn you a little bit of Greek. “Charis” is the Greek word for “grace.” This Greek word is used 155 times on the pages of the New Testament Scriptures— 119 of those times it is simply translated into English as “grace.” (Other translations of the word include: “favor” and “thanks.”) “Charis” is the “undeserved love” that the good Lord so freely and so richly showers upon us. Since I am somewhat partial to alliteration I included this Greek word in our theme for today: From Chaos to Charis.
Let’s turn to our text, shall we. The life of the apostle Paul is indeed an extremely good example of how a life without Christ is indeed a life that is filled with chaos. Paul describes this portion of his life in verses 13 and 15 of our text. In verse 13 he describes himself as “… a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” In verse 15 he sums up this portion of his life by confessing that he is the “worst” of “sinners.”
Was Paul perhaps being a little “over-dramatic” here? Not at all— especially when you look at Paul’s life from God’s perspective! To see how Paul’s life was at one time marred by chaos all we need to do is look at Paul’s life back when he was still known as Saul. Saul the Pharisee was indeed a man who lived his life in chaos— especially from God’s perspective. Saul was a “blasphemer,” someone who “spoke against God.” After the execution of Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1) Saul made it his personal life’s mission to “destroy the (Christian) church” (Acts 8:3). Saul quickly became the pre-eminent persecutor of God’s church and violently dragged both men and women off to prison for proclaiming Jesus as the Promised Messiah, this world’s only Savior from sin. Once Saul had swept through the city of Jerusalem he set his sights on doing the same thing in the city of Damascus. (See Acts 9:1-2) When Paul the apostle looked back at his life as Saul the Pharisee he saw that from God’s perspective his life had indeed been marred by chaos. When Paul the apostle looked back at his life without Christ he had no choice but to confess that he was indeed the “worst” of “sinners.”
At the same time Paul was now able to see how the good Lord had a plan to bring him from chaos to “charis.” Look at verse 14 of our text. Paul writes, “The grace (charis) of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Even though Saul was indeed a “blasphemer,” a “persecutor” and a “violent man,” even though Paul was indeed the “worst” of “sinners” the Lord God had planned from all of eternity to bring Paul out of that chaos by showering him with “charis”— “grace.” In fact, the picture that Paul uses here is nothing short of amazing. Very literally Paul says that the “charis,” the “grace,” of our Lord “overflowed” or “was present beyond measure” in his life. No matter how much chaos may have ruled Paul’s life before he knew Christ as his Savior, the “charis,” the “grace” that he received “in Christ Jesus” was most certainly “beyond measure.”
Now one might think that Paul would be somewhat reluctant to have the chaos of his life without Christ openly revealed for everyone to see. Why was Paul willing to have this part of his life put on public display? Look at verse 15 -16 of our text. Paul writes, “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 unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
Paul is indeed a beautiful example of our sermon theme for today: From Chaos to Charis. Purely by grace, “charis,” Paul was brought from being a “blasphemer” to being a believer. Purely by grace, charis, Paul was transformed from someone who persecuted Christ to someone who praised Christ. Purely by grace, charis, Paul was changed from someone who reacted violently at the message of the Gospel to someone who rejoiced victoriously at the message of the Gospel. Purely by grace, charis, Paul was brought from being the “worst of sinners” to being a saved child of God.
From Chaos to Charis. Can God do that for you, my friends? Listen very closely before you answer that question. Can God bring you from the chaos of a life without Christ to the “charis” of a life in Christ? He already has! Through the powerful message of the Gospel (See Romans 1:16-17) working through Word and Sacrament the good Lord has already brought you from chaos to “charis”! Even if at one time you rivaled Paul himself for being the “worst of sinners” this cross guarantees to you that the “charis,” the “grace,” of God has been poured out on you “beyond measure.” (Pointing to the cross) No matter what “skeletons” Satan may try to drag out of your closet and put on display for everyone to see, through faith in Christ Jesus you can now say with Paul, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.” You are saved; you are forgiven purely because of the “charis,” the “grace” of the Lord your God.
There’s just one more point that we need to glean from this text. Sometimes our life here on this earth still seems rather chaotic, doesn’t it? We experience troubles at home, troubles at school, troubles at work. We face financial difficulties and failing health. Worries keep us awake at night. People disappoint us. How do we deal with the chaos that we all too often encounter in life? We stay focused on the “charis” of our God!
Just as God has already brought us out of the chaos of a life without Christ and into the “charis” of a life with Christ, so also one day the good Lord will usher us out of the chaos of this world into the “charis” of His heavenly Home. All the difficulties that we deal with here remind us that this world and everything it offers to us adds up to absolutely nothing. What the good Lord has waiting for us in heaven truly is priceless!
My prayer this morning, my friends, is that you will indeed remember the four little words: From Chaos to Charis. Remembering those four little words will bring you the comfort of knowing that no matter how chaotic your life may seem from your perspective the Lord who loves you so much that He was willing to die for you (Pointing to the cross) knows what He is doing. As the One who is weaving the tapestry of your life your God has a plan for you! Since God sees your entire life from His perspective He knows exactly how everything will most certainly work together for your eternal good. (See Romans 8:28) At the same time remembering those four little words From Chaos to Charis will give you the confidence to look at what God has already done for you (Pointing to the cross), lead you to trust in what God has waiting for you in eternity and then enable you to joyfully proclaim with the apostle Paul, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.”
To God be the glory!