“Learning is the heart of discipleship. You can't just take up your cross daily. You need to take up the Bible every day.”
― Mark Batterson
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: 1 Timothy 1:12-16
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
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.
The worst of sinners; the best of news
One of the things that has always fascinated me about the Judeo-Christian tradition is its rich body of literature, especially the stories of God choosing to work his will through the most unlikely of persons. These accounts are found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. From Joseph to Moses to Rahab to Mary, God often picks particular individuals for specific purposes that result in some truly astonishing revelations about his character, his mercy, his provision, his grace, and his power to act in unexpected and wonderful ways.
Paul was one such person. As a highly-respected Pharisee, he had been in a position of great influence within the Jewish faith. His belief that the new, emerging religion we now call Christianity was dangerous to Judaism led him to zealously persecute (and even advocate the murder of) early martyrs like Stephen; thus, his reference to himself as having been a “violent man.” And yet, as he writes, God was merciful to him in order to provide an example to others of the Lord’s desire and ability to save even the “worst of sinners,” in other words, to demonstrate that no one is beyond God’s reach or redemption.
Several years ago, I had privilege of attending a luncheon at which my husband’s aunt was the keynote speaker. Growing up as a young woman during the 1940’s, she had lived a pretty wild life before becoming a Christian. As I listened to her talk about her exploits, which included tales of rebellion, abuse, and the consequences of sexual promiscuity, I was seized with an odd feeling that I, who was raised in a Christian home with loving parents and a firm grounding in scripture, had somehow missed out because I would never be able to give a testimony based on a powerful conversion experience. I confided to her later that, since I had no memory of a pre-Christian life, I feared that this lack of a dramatic “before and after” story would hinder the effectiveness of my witness for Jesus. She listened quietly and then said something I will never forget. “Oh, Cindy”, she said with a longing that was almost palpable, “What I wouldn’t give to have known the Lord all my life.”
The point here is that God pours out his grace on all of us, regardless of age, experience, gender, race, background, place of origin, in spite of all the mistakes we have made or the life we have previously lived. He gives each of us a unique story designed to demonstrate the different ways he works in people’s lives because he wants to good news of “faith and love” to reach into every individual heart. Even if we feel that we don’t have much in common with others, we share a common humanity – we are all sinners – and Jesus came to save us and welcome us into his family on equal terms, no matter if we have known him for an hour or for a lifetime. Let us pray that he will make us aware of the ways in which the stories with which he has gifted us can benefit his kingdom, here and now, and forever.
Thank You, Lord, for your grace to weave our story into Your greater story, that we can bring glory to You in everything.