“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:15-17)
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Probably because I relate with Paul so much. I didn’t always, until I took sometime to really take a look at who the Apostle Paul was. A lot of the stuff he writes is very powerful, but it’s even more powerful when you remember who Paul was before he was Paul. Just to refresh your memory, Paul wasn’t always known as Paul. He was a tent making Roman citizen. He was raised Jewish. The fact that he was a Roman citizen means he would have received a lot of respect wherever he went. He also became a Jewish Pharisee. Paul talks about how his zeal for Judaism was far greater than his fellow Pharisees (Galatians 1). Paul (back when he was Saul) was involved in persecuting the first Christians because he believed they were heretics. Then one day while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians Jesus appeared to him. The appearance was so real that it physically blinded him. Later Paul received not only his sight back but a new purpose for his life, to share the revelation of Jesus Christ that he received to people all over the world.
Just try and imagine being Paul for a bit. But imagine it here in our day and age. Let’s say you use to be extremely involved in persecuting Christians, even to the point of arranging them to be killed(Stephen was stoned by Jewish Pharisees, where Paul(Saul) is believed to be among the orchestrators of the stoning, and to have held the Pharisees coats while they stoned Stephen. Then Jesus Christ shows up to you in such a powerful way that you join the Christians. Imagine the shame you would feel for finding out that the very people you were persecuting were followers of the one and only true God, Jesus Christ. Then Jesus calls you to start sharing the Gospel. Can you imagine going back to the people you persecuted to share the Gospel? Ugh! Whenever I imagine it I just get overwhelmed with the shame Paul would have felt. Shame on a level that most of us Christians have never experienced. And yet what do we see happen in Paul’s life? He end’s up being one of the most monumental missionaries in the history of the Christian faith!!! So the question that comes to my mind is “How did Paul overcome his past mistakes in his life from when he was Saul?”
The answer that I have come to stems from the verse that I quoted in the beginning. “Christ came into the world to die for sinners”, this was such a powerful concept to Paul that he said everyone should accept it! What was so powerful about it? Well if you recall again who Paul was, he was very passionate about Judaism. He bought in to the mindset that somehow one could be righteous enough to be justified before God. He knew the law inside and out and he spent his whole life trying to live up to it. But when Paul received Jesus Christ into his life, he was forced to recognize how sinful he truly was. He began to understand how incapable he was of ever making himself worthy of the mercy of Jesus Christ. And yet he was extremely aware of the reality of God’s mercy on him. The only conclusion Paul came to that could reconcile his unworthiness with the reality of God’s mercy in his life, was that Christ’s love for him did not come from how good Paul could be, or how few mistakes he would make in his life, but rather it came from the goodness of God. This was a revolutionary principle for Christians back then, and it is for us Christians now.
Christ’s love for you and I comes from the goodness of God! Amen! What does this mean for us as believers? It means we can stop pretending that we have or ever will in this life, reach a point where we don’t make mistakes!! And we can stop believing the lie that the measure of God’s love towards us changes and is based on our goodness. Which if we are painfully honest, is like a rollercoaster ride a lot of the time. You and I are loved by God. (period) God’s love for us is perfect and unfailing, because God is perfect and never fails. God is not shocked by our sin, He hates sin, but He is not shocked that we fallen humans are not able to be perfect in this broken world. So let God take that weight off of you. That weight of responsibility for dictating the measure of God’s love towards you by being more good than bad. One of, if not the, greatest displays of God’s love towards you and I was done for us while we were sinners. The truth is that God LOVES YOU AND I, not because of what we do, but BECAUSE of WHO WE ARE. We are His creation, His masterpiece. We were made in His image. He made us to love us, and He loves us perfectly regardless of what we do.
I am not saying however that our actions have no affect. While our actions can never change the Measure of God’s love towards us, they can change our experience of His love in our life. We need to abide in God; we need to be rooted in Christ, and accept what He did on the Cross, and accept His love into our lives. Never trying to earn it. And while we can’t earn it, as we experience His love more fully (1Jn 4:17-21) in our lives it will supernaturally change us and cause us to pursue holiness. We will see real fruit in our lives that comes naturally from His loving presence in our lives. And as we experience His love more and more, we will naturally pursue Holiness more and more, and there will be even more fruit.
I really hope this as encouraging for you as it has been for me. I encourage you to ask God give you a new revelation of His love for you. Be honest with God about your sin, and your shame, and watch as He reveals how much He loves you in spite of it. All God asks is for us to abide in Him and let Him be the cause of fruit in our lives. He is the author of life. Let Him sustain yours.
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