1 Timothy 1:15-17
It seems to be a defining characteristic of redeemed sinners that, the longer they are exposed to the grace of God, the greater their own sin seems. And the greater their own sin seems, the more amazed they are at the mercy of God. Such thoughts surely motivated John Newton’s words in “Amazing Grace:” Amazing grace . . . that saved a wretch like me.”
Another saint who wrote plainly of the measure of his sin was the apostle Paul. So struck by the mercy and grace of God was Paul that he concluded himself to be the “worst” of all sinners! Surely many people before Paul had committed more heinous crimes than he. How was it, therefore, that he saw himself as the worst of sinners? Because sinfulness has less to do with knowing who we are than it does with knowing who God is. Probably 30 years had passed between the time of Paul’s conversion—when he saw himself as the chief defender of God’s law—to the time he saw himself as the chief of sinners, the greatest lawbreaker of all. During those three decades, Paul came to know his heart, and the heart of God, intimately. To the degree that one is able on earth, Paul probably had developed an awareness of what heaven was going to be like: life in the presence of unlimited mercy.
The only way Paul could have written, “Now to the King . . . be honor and glory for ever and ever” was to understand that the “eternal, immortal, invisible” God had patiently brought him to salvation. Paul knew that his covetous heart knew no bounds (Rom. 7:7-12) and that it would take an unbounded God—with unlimited patience, grace, and mercy—to forgive him. Every Christian that reaches that understanding knows he or she, not the apostle, is the worst of sinners. It is that realization that fuels service to God on earth and ascription of honor to God forever in heaven.
God doesn't delight in our self-abasement, but he does delight in our worship. He delights in it now, and will all the more for eternity. A fresh look at ourselves, in light of who he is, is a good place to begin.
God’s Promise to You: “I value your gratitude as much as you value your salvation.”
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