by Matthew Bassford
One of the beauties of being the devil is that you don’t have to be logically consistent. To some, Satan whispers that they don’t need God, that they are sufficiently wise, capable, and righteous all by themselves. He tells others that they’re too rotten for God. They have done too much, wandered too far, sinned too greatly. Surely, if such a one as they started going to church, the Holy One would turn His nose up in disgust!
The word of God exposes the untruthfulness of both of these lies. Anyone convinced of their own righteousness never has looked closely into the mirror of the perfect law of liberty. Anyone who trusts in their own strength never has been swept away by one of life’s great storms. Even Jesus relied on His Father. Who are we to think that we can go it alone?
Those who believe that God wouldn’t want them likewise are deceived. Many passages highlight this error, but one of the most powerful is 1 Timothy 1:12-16. In this text, we see the spiritual resumé of the most wretched sinner of the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Saul had rejected the Messiah that God had sent. He had blasphemed the name of God’s Son. He had persecuted God’s people, dragging them off to imprisonment and death. It took nothing less than the appearance of the resurrected Christ to bring this ravening wolf of a human being up short.
However, on that road outside Damascus, something incredible happened. Jesus didn’t blast Saul of Tarsus to atoms, even though his hands were stained with the blood of the righteous. Jesus showed him mercy. Not only that, but Jesus made him an apostle. He called the most unlikely candidate imaginable into service and used him for His glory.
Looking back on his conversion decades later, the apostle Paul explained why Jesus did it. His example proved that the Lord could and would show grace to absolutely anybody. Jesus’ love is so perfect and His sacrifice so powerful that Saul of Tarsus could be redeemed, and so can every sinner. All they have to do is seek, and they will find.
Today, the grace of Christ has lost none of its ancient power. I know preachers who used to be drug addicts. I’ve baptized drug dealers and strippers. I’ve worshiped with a murderer. The world would call all those people irredeemable. God sees things differently.
Maybe there’s a drug addict, drug dealer, stripper, or murderer reading this. Maybe you’ve done something else that you think is just as bad. Doesn’t matter. God has a place in His kingdom for you.
For that matter, maybe you’re clinging to salvation with your teeth and fingernails. You can’t imagine that God would want to use somebody with your past. Wrong again. God wants to do amazing things with you, and He will if you let Him. It is not in the man who wills or the man who runs, but in the Lord who has mercy.
You might think you’re too rotten for God, but take Him at His word instead. You will find what Saul of Tarsus found—that He is faithful. Of all those who come to Him, He will turn none away and cast none out.