Links Daily Devotional

Serious Salvation

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15, NIV)

I would argue that the prettiest of all meeting places for a Links Fellowship is found in an understated club in the heart of California, where our mixed group gathers on Wednesday evenings in the Fireside Room. The picture window here at Visalia Country Club looks across the patio to the green at the sixteenth, a well-bunkered hole fronted by a large pond and framed by two giant oaks. Magnificent.

This group has been meeting for five years now, and this year we have been considering discipleship—who we are made to be in Christ and how we are called to act in Christ. After a summer recess, we began again last week, and we turned our attention to 1 Timothy 1 for our “Leadership Track.”

It’s not that the room is full of leaders, except to say that all of us, when we have chosen to walk with Jesus and allow him to do his work in us, will be asked to lead. But it is more that this letter, and the one that follows it, allow us to see what Paul, the mentor, had to say to Timothy, the protégé, as the apostle trained the younger man to oversee a local church.

What we find in the first chapter tells all. In the midst of these many lines of practical instruction, Paul clung to his singularly great message: Jesus saves.

You might say that the chapter comes at us in three parts:

– Warnings about false and pointless teaching
– Exposure of specific serious sins
– The mercy of God’s saving work in Christ

It’s easy in our time to get distracted by that list of big sinners and big sins in the central section of the chapter, verses 9-11. Surely you’ve heard it put like this: “The world is falling apart thanks to these hellions, and we need to take a stand against their sinful ways!”

But this is where the bookends count for so much.

In the early verses, Paul wrote about those false teachers and chasers of religious rabbit trails. He commanded Timothy to challenge them, but he put it this way: “The goal of this command is love” (verse 5). We confront faithless sin, yes. But not out of anger and not in battle mode. In the same way that we would protect our loved ones from physical dangers, we also rush in to urge caution when a friend is functioning under false doctrine or giving their heart to sin.

And then in the later verses, Paul progressed to the nature of even these sins—that all sins disqualify us from presenting ourselves as righteous before God in our own works and that we are in desperate need of the righteousness of Christ, who specifically came to save “the worst” sinners.

The conversation about sin must always be held in this context. That we come in love, because your sins, like mine are serious. And that your serious sins, just like mine, must be met with a serious salvation. There is only one such provision, “the one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And it is this provision that we offer.

Jeff Hopper
August 11, 2015
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