You are much, much worse than you think you are.
Of all the things that Paul talks about here, perhaps one of the most surprising is to see how he considers himself. In a direct contrast to the proud and arrogant false teachers waging war on the church in Ephesus, Paul recounts how undeserved his salvation is, and exposes the very worst parts of himself to everyone who reads 1 Timothy 1.
We know Paul’s background as a Pharisee who persecuted and murdered Christians. Which is why verse 13 is no surprise to us. Paul really was a blasphemer, a persecutor and an insolent opponent. It is perhaps understandable why Paul views himself as “the chief/foremost of sinners” in verse 15. He did do terrible things.
However Paul isn’t just talking about his past. In verse 15 Paul says “… I am the foremost…” where he is using the present tense. There are similar accounts in the bible where Paul exposes his unworthiness of Gods love, such “For I am the least of the apostles” or “though I am the very least of the saints.” These are all present tense statements, and they are so surprising! This is the super apostle Paul. This is the Damascus road guy! This is the church planter extraordinaire!
Paul is demonstrating a raw and vulnerable leadership that contrasts so heavily from other leaders. There is beauty in his humbled heart, his lack of ego, and his great desire that Jesus is ‘displayed’ through his ‘example’. Paul hasn’t developed an ego, he has developed a correct understand of how far away he was from God, before God intervened with his mercy. Paul was much worse than he ever thought possible, and God changed that to show the gospel’s power to transform the very worst of us.
Aren’t you utterly amazed, that even though you are (present tense) much worse than you ever thought, Gods arm was not too short to save you, and isn’t too short to preserve you now. Instead the grace of God overflows for us (verse 14) that Jesus would be displayed to those who will come to believe (verse 16).
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- As Paul got older, his conviction over his sin grew. Evaluate your life and ask if the same is true for you?
- How does an accurate view of our sin help to display Jesus?
- Why do you think Paul was willing to bear such a heavy cost so Jesus could be displayed?
Paul’s purpose for recalling his story was so that Jesus might be displayed. Paul was willing to take the cost of appearing unimpressive if it advanced the Gospel. He leverages his story for the sake of the lost. Leadership is all about sacrifice, leaving everything behind and taking every opportunity to make Jesus known.
 1 Corinthians 15:9
 Ephesians 3:8
 1 Timothy 1:16
 1 Timothy 1:13 & 16
And so we encounter the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.
In Genesis 22:5 we read that Abraham leaves the young men travelling with them behind with these words: “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (my emphasis).
This chapter (Gen 22) is an amazing picture (shadow) of the sacrificial journey of Jesus:
He is the only Son of God, just as Isaac was the son of promise, the heir.
Abraham placed the wood for the sacrifice onto Isaac’s shoulders, foreshadowing the way Jesus’ cross was placed on His shoulders and He had to walk with it through the streets of the city to Golgotha.
Isaac cried: “My father!” and received the comfort of his father’s reply: “Here am I, my son” (verse 7). In contrast, Jesus called out in anguish and pain, forsaken by God (Matt 27:46) so that we never have to go through the utter desperation of ever being without our Father.
And then there is Abraham’s profound answer to Isaac’s concern about the absence of a sacrificial animal: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (verse 8). God, the Father asked His Son, and Jesus offered Himself, to once and for all atone for the sins of the world.
What great courage, what great FAITH! No wonder Abraham is mentioned several times in the faith hall of fame as described in Hebrews 11! He was willing to literally sacrifice this son for whom he had to wait so long!
Abraham had an absolute trust in God – that He would provide an outcome. In Hebrews 11:19 it says that Abraham “considered that God was able even to raise him (Isaac) from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
Abraham understood something of the awesome power of God. Some say that he saw a vision of the future redemptive and death-conquering work of Jesus – the Lamb of God, on the cross. He didn’t look up to see the ram God provided, because it was caught in a bush behind him (verse 13).
So, worship, in this context could be interpreted as submission to the will of God, a picture of humility before the sovereign King. The Greek word “shachah” (worship), used here, speaks of a posture of homage, bowing down in worship to God as a response to His great power.
“This act of worship is given to God because He deserves it, and because those who are speaking are people of His pasture” (Strong’s Concordance).
There is a special, priviledged relationship between God and those who are called as His own. As believers, we have the intimacy of children with their father, but we always, always have to remember with reverence that our Father is the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, Immutable God!
We have free access to the innermost parts of the throne room, and our response is to bow down, to submit in immediate obedience, to pay homage to our Great God.
“Shachah” is more than a posture of the body, it is a position of the heart, which influences the actions, words, thoughts and lifestyle of one who worships God. It is a life focused on God.
by Lise Oosthuizen
When I thought about it, I realised that the word “forgive” has much of the abstract difficulty to explain as the word “love”. So I decided to investigate. One of the Oxford dictionaries explains it like this: “to stop feeling angry with somebody who has done something to harm, annoy or upset you.” Simply controlling your emotions then…
The Afrikaans dictionary says: “nie toereken nie; oor die hoof sien; uitwis (sonde)”. So here, the culpable person (the one who deserves blame) is exonerated, set free from his/her accountability…
Looking at it this way, it may not always be such an easy thing to do! When we have been wronged or hurt, or even when someone we love has been wronged or hurt, our natural reaction is to want retribution.
According to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, forgiveness is a uniquely Christian doctrine. We forgive because God forgives us.
When we consider God’s example in dealing with the wayward nation of Israel in the Old Testament, His forgiveness meant to let go of the transgressions, to remove it – to wipe it away. He never thought on it again, He did not remember it, He put it out of sight.
“The past acts and deeds of sin are not denied, but there is no longer any bondage. Forgiveness brings freedom.”
Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:21-35) puts into perspective how much we have been forgiven, in comparison to the little we need to forgive others. The first servant owed what could be considered MILLIONS of rands to the king, while the second servant owed the first a mere couple of rand…
Some things are arguably easier to forgive than others. Some things may be more easily considered “a mere couple of rands”. I say this with great caution, being aware of how many terrible things are being perpetrated against people, but even the worst of offenses should still be considered small in relation to the fact that Jesus had to offer His completely sinless life as restitution to save ours – for ETERNITY!
If an eternal perspective doesn’t make forgiveness easier, consider the following, more immediate, benefits:
- It sets YOU free
- It sets the offender free (also for God to deal with him/her)
- It prevents the enemy from getting a destructive hold on your life
- It pleases the Father!
Considering everything else, the last reason would be my greatest motivation.
Yes, our emotions often take longer to catch up with our decision, but even in that we can trust God to help us. Once we decide to forgive, we must resist the urge to dwell on the incident, the wrong that was committed. We must make a conscious effort to put it behind us. We learn, we gain wisdom, but we must continue to love.
Jesus ends this parable with a stern warning – God considers this an important matter!
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (verse 35)
Let’s go back to Matt 18:18. “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Can we read this in relation to forgiveness? To forgive someone is to release (loose) them of their culpability. Is that not what love does? Is that not the way of humility?
In both these instances, Jesus is specifically speaking of our responsibility towards our fellow Christians. Why? Because in the way we act towards each other, the world should see the love of Jesus being portrayed in our lives.
Our interaction with each other should be a testimony to our being one body, connected to the head, who is Jesus Christ.
Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we hurt each other. None of us are immune to our sinful nature and our human fallibility. So, let’s also be quick to forgive.
by Lise Oosthuizen
Our congregation has the vision to help people become followers of Jesus. This is not just a nice sentiment, but carries the weight of true conviction for those who turned their life around from out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom. It implies a change in lifestyle, however gradual.
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matt 16:24)
We have probably all read this verse many times – and scan over it as easily as we sing the songs proclaiming we will lay down everything for Jesus’ sake… Is it really that easy? Do we truly understand what it means?
I was startled this morning to read an Afrikaans translation where three options for the Greek word “aparnesastho” was given: “jouself verloen/afsweer/ontken”. These are strong terms! It can be translated with words like “renounce”, “disavow”, “contradict”. Denying yourself means to NOT do as you please, to NOT make your own wants/needs/dreams/desires the most important thing in life.
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that the modern Christian mantra has become more and more focused on our own desires and working to make them reality, because that is what God wants for us… I don’t necessarily agree… And maybe I’m missing the point, but allow me to continue this train of thought, however unpopular.
Am I willing to lay down everything, even my own life, to follow Jesus? We live in a country where we still have a great amount of religious freedom. We are not generally confronted with the choice between being killed for following Jesus, or staying alive by renouncing Him. Losing our lives in the context of this passage, to us, has a more subtle meaning.
We live in a world inundated by media that urges us to believe we need very many things to be happy and fulfilled. A nice house, nice care, nice clothes, the best in technology, phones, computers, entertainment media… Maybe you are strong enough to say, alright, I can give that up, and live with only what I need to survive…
But what if it comes to having a husband/wife, a family, a wonderful fulfilling career, the best education for myself or my children… What if the cross we take up means a life devoid of those things that we feel makes us happy? What if taking up my cross means allowing God to take me in a whole different direction than where I was wanting to go?
I am not saying we should all dive into an ascetic lifestyle! But what if all of that is taken away from you? Will you still follow Jesus with your whole heart? Will you still trust that the Father is working it all out for your benefit?
So, really, I’m inviting you to think it through with me, today. I’ve had to think it through for myself many times. And its hard to imagine what life would be like without all the stuff and people we love, without the hope of realising our dreams and desires, but maybe it is a good way to establish where your heart really is.
Our life on this earth is not a game played to gain as much as we can from it. It is an opportunity to live a life that acknowledges God’s sovereign rule, a life that pleases HIM, that gives His Word, His instruction, His direction first place.
It helps us correct our perspective when we set our minds on eternity. I would offer up everything here, however painful I’m sure it must be, to know that my eternal reward is to sit at the feet of my Lord, and behold His beautiful face forever:
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. (verse 27)
by Lise Oosthuizen
It is probably inevitable that the idea of propriety is so strongly ingrained in the psyche of the Afrikaner. We traditionally grow up in an environment where rules and obedience are made very important.
So I was wondering: do we really experience, or even acknowledge, true freedom in our walk with God? Of course, in his discourse in Galatians, Paul is referring to the Old Testament Law, but it seems that in today’s Christian life, any expectation can become a law, whether openly or subtly enforced.
The power of expectation and propriety can dishearten a Christ-follower who wants to please God: how to talk, how to behave, what to do and what not to do, etc. Sometimes so many structures are put in place in the church community that it may hinder people from the joyful experience of freedom in serving and following God, in response to His overwhelming love.
Of course order is important, and without structure very little is accomplished. But what is the motivation behind these rules or the structure – to enable, or to control? In the church family, maybe we should stop laying down the law, and start letting go of the law.
The law has its place, it is not void of meaning. It confirms to us that we are sinful, that we cannot save ourselves, and that we desperately need a Saviour (Gal 3:10-11). “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).
Each believer is at their own place of spiritual growth, becoming more and more like Jesus. We are all on the same road, following God, and should love and encourage one another, not restrict and control each other. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal 5:14).
I am learning about this freedom. “Kancane kancane” (little by little) I am starting to understand my own freedom in Christ bought with His precious blood, and it becomes easier to practice grace and love towards others.
Gal 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”.
by Lise Oosthuizen
7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)
Just preceding this is the healing of the man on the Sabbath by Jesus while Jesus was a guest of one of the Pharisees homes. They were more concerned about Sabbath observance than about the person (the man with dropsy who gets healed).
Jesus has noticed something about how they arranged themselves at the feast, Jesus had noticed how they chose for themselves places of honour…
So this parable was then told by Jesus to those who were invited to the feast.
The compatibility principle
Right after this parable Jesus speaks a parable to the man who had invited Him.
The historical narrative of the last supper can also be compared to these two feasts. That supper was one where Jesus humbled Himself and modelled true leadership to us.
It is also noted that we who believe in Jesus ultimately get invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb at the end of this age and the beginning of the next.
This passage is also linked to the other teachings on humility:
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalms 25:8-9)
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 6 The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. 7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalm 147:5-7)
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. (Psalms 149:4)
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
Thus says the LORD: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2
Philippians 2:5-11 – Jesus’ example of humility
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Peter 5:5: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (I Peter 5:5-8)
James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
What questions does it address, ask or answer?
This passages deals with the issues of humility and pride and the wisdom/foolishness of taking honour rather than having it given to you.
Honour is best given rather than taken because “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” (Luke 14:11)
The big idea when reading through the various passages on humility is that we ought to humble ourselves and let God exalt, let God honour us in His time.
- God leads and teaches those who are humble – Psalm 25
- God lifts up the humble but brings to nothing the proud – Psalm 147
- God adorns the humble with salvation – Psalm 149
- Humility leads to wisdom, pride leads to disgrace – Proverbs 11:2
- Humility is more valuable to God who made everything than anything else! – Isaiah 66:1-2
- Have this in mind – Jesus humbled Himself and so God exalted Him! – Philippians 2:5-11
- Put on humility, humble yourself so that God might exalt you at the proper time – 1 Peter 5
- God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud – 1 Peter 5
The humble person will be adorned with salvation, lead, taught, lifted up, given wisdom, valued and will receive grace from God. The humble person will be like Jesus!
Honour is not taken but given. Salvation requires humility in that we have to acknowledge our sin and our need of being saved. And having been saved by God we ought always to be mindful of how we were saved.
Pride in the believer is an antithesis. Compared to God’s majesty, power, holiness we are not in a position to have anything other than humility. Considering our own sinful state and fallenness we really don’t have anything to be proud about.
We have not been treated by Almighty God as our sins deserved, we have been shown mercy and grace, we have been forgiven and set free from the entanglements of our own sin, we are recipients of grace, humble servants of our wonderful King of love.
The paradox is that because God loved us in spite of our fallenness, we have had the greatest honour bestowed on us, we have been so valued by God that He was die for us in our place and to crown us with salvation.
Although we are to be humble, we are honoured by God in the most remarkable way and given a position of honour within His creation for all eternity, not because we are good but because He is good, not because of what we did but because of what He did for us.
So worship God who bestows honour and glory on those who didn’t deserve it but received it through Jesus Christ. To Him be the honour and glory forever and ever amen.
The humble person will be adorned with salvation, lead, taught, lifted up, given wisdom, valued and will receive grace from God. Scripture contrasts this positive outlook to the bleak outlook of the proud person who is opposed by God and who will be humbled by God…
Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Have you humbled yourself yet before God, acknowledged that self-salvation, reliance on self and human effort will ultimately fail, it will fall short of the requirements of God?
If not, then know today that receiving honour that lasts for eternity starts with humbling oneself, confessing that you are flawed and sinful, hopeless outside of God and God’s help. Receiving honour starts with asking Jesus to be your Saviour, asking Him to forgive you from your sin and letting Him set you free from sin, shame, bondage and death.
The moment you do this, you get honoured by God, you get the privilege of becoming the child of God (John 1:12).
Are you a believer? Then consider again your salvation. Do you have anything to boast in (Ephesians 2:4-10)? What do you have that you have not received from God as a gift?
The appropriate heart condition for the believer is humility & thankfulness giving honour and praise to the source (God) of all that you have received from Him.
Is there any situation in which you have sort to honour yourself? Remember Jesus’ words; “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)