1 Timothy 1; Isaiah 31-33; Psalm 119:33-64
Many followers of Christ have the problem of forgetting where they came from. No, I’m not talking about their hometown; I’m thinking of their spiritual condition. When you have walked with Christ for a long time, it begins to feel so natural that the way we used to live fades in our memories. While there is a lot of good in that, it opens us up to a major heresy: we begin to think that we deserve our relationship with God because we are better than other people.
Whereas we might have said, “There but for the grace of God go I,” when seeing someone obviously trapped in sin, now we just look down our noses at them. Paul would have none of that. “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.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
We often think about the life of Paul after his conversion. We marvel at his boldness in proclaiming the gospel; we are thrilled at the stories of his travels to proclaim Christ; we marvel at his ability to endure pain and suffering for the gospel and we place him on the pedestal of the leader of our faith. (He wrote a large part of the New Testament, right?) One of the reasons we can do all these things is that Paul remembered where he came from. He recognized that he was the worst of sinners and that Jesus chose him so that God’s unlimited patience and love could be shown in him. Paul would tell you, “If God could love me and give me eternal life, He could love and give eternal life to anyone!”
Our only dispute with Paul here should come as we remember where we came from; and where we still are. I can honestly say that I am the worst sinner I know. (A good friend taught me this.) I know all my thoughts and deeds. I know what I am thinking that I never say. I know how I want to respond and yet don’t. I know all the privileges I have had and abused. I don’t know that about anyone else. And so, like Paul, I can claim to be the worst of sinners who has been saved so that others can see God’s great love and patience in me. Now, if only I will reflect that love and grace in all I say and do.
Lord, I come to You not on my own goodness, but because of Your love and grace. You have treated me not as I deserved, but with great love. Let me show others Your love and compassion so that they will know that You can love them too.