Famous “second” words

Famous “second” words

We’re all familiar with “famous last words.” Those final utterances of people that might even be more immortal than the person or their influence in history.

Great comedic actor, Groucho Marx is reported to have said, “Die! My dear, that’s the last thing I’ll do.” And he did.

Karl Marx, approached by his housekeeper for a last word bellowed, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough already.” I think there are many who’d suggest Marx said far too much in this life.

Union General John Sedgwick tried to rally his troops in an attack against the Confederate Forces saying, “C’mon men! What are you afraid of? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance!”      He was promptly struck down by a sharpshooter’s musket ball. Evidently, “they” could.

We’re also well-acquainted with what I’d call the “first words” of famous Biblical passages.

John 3:16 for instance,  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

By itself…that’s an awesome expression of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, but it isn’t the complete thought that john was expressing.

You get that in the “second word,” John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John wants us to know that God’s love in Jesus had but one purpose: to save not condemn. If we stop with the “first word” we might miss that in the heart of the Father from before time began, restoration not retaliation was the plan. You gotta hear the “second word!”

I ran across something similar in reading 1 Timothy. I reckon we’ve all become acquainted with Paul great confession in 1 Tim 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” In fact, I know lots of people who fancy themselves “the worst” of all possible sinners, including Paul, Hitler, Charles Manson, Stalin, Mao…make your own list here. They really see themselves, in the words of the older confessions of sin, as a “poor miserable sinner.” Emphasis on “miserable.”

But Paul has a “second word” here too. 1 Tim 1:16 reads, “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.”

Paul’s point, is to say not just “I’m the worst!” but instead, “Look! Jesus has made this sow’s ear His silk purse and he’s got the same renovation in mind for you!”

That seems more gospel to me…Yes, I’m a sinner, so are you, but in Jesus, God sees us as “holy & blameless” in his sight right now (Eph 1:3-4, 2:4-7; Col 1:26-27) and is working that transformation by his grace every moment by the Holy Spirit alive in all who believe. AND God will make good on that transformation in full. (Philippians 1:6)

Here’s the other “good news” part of that. You don’t have to be perfect to be an “example” of God’s grace & mercy. You just have to be an example of grace & mercy, of love & forgiveness, of restoration & reconciliation. Just be the same silk purse out of a sow’s ear that Paul proclaims himself to be. And maybe for a day or two…drop that “poor miserable sinner” stuff. Just claim your identity as one deeply loved & deeply transformed by that love that we know in Jesus, and invite someone to trust it’s true for them too.

That’s all the “example” God ever looks for in us. He’ll do the rest.

I’ll see you Sunday. Remember…we are ALL back in the house this week. There will still be a required “sign in” but no masks & no vaccine segregation. Let’s be careful and let’s treat one another gently. It’s also the last Morning Tea of the year & we’re going to Christmas it up! I’ll tell you now…my red Hawaiian shirt is ready to go!

God bless you richly as we move toward celebrating the birth of Jesus together!


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