As I was driving to work this morning, I thought about the fact that I have been a Christian for 15 years. A lot of things have changed. God has really grown me. He has blessed me and my family in great abundance. I’m no longer a Citadel cadet with a shredded shoulder wondering if I would finish the semester, much less graduate in a year and a half. I no longer worry about whether or not I’ll get my Air Force contract back (due to said shredded shoulder) and in fact, I have come to a place where God has given me great peace regarding jobs and opportunities in general. After all, He is in control. I’m no longer dating Kimberly. We were married shortly after my graduation and now have three wonderful children. And I’m not the new-in-the-faith Christian who didn’t know that Hebrews was in the New Testament, not the Old. I now help new-in-the-faith Christians find Hebrews in the proper part of their Bibles. A lot has changed. But one thing has not: I’m still a sinner.
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. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 1:15-17, NIV
I very much understand what Paul is saying here in his letter to Timothy. I understand why he would call himself the worst of sinners. It had a little to do with his past, but more to do with his present, or at least, his present understanding. As Paul grew in his faith, Paul saw more and more through the eyes of Christ and not through the eyes of man. And with each glimpse through those perfect eyes, Paul saw himself for what he really was: a sinful man who depended on the mercy of Christ Jesus and on His infinite patience for the opportunity to receive eternal life. That’s why Paul says this “is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”
After 15 years I see my faults and my sins more clearly than when I began my walk with Jesus, when I surrendered my life over to Him once and for all. And I realize today that I am a sinner more wholly and more completely than when I came to the broken realization that I was a sinner in the first place and needed Christ to redeem me. I understand better how much I truly need Christ. I get more clearly how everything that actually matters depends on His mercy and patience and love. So I can understand Paul’s claim to be the worst of sinners. I didn’t then. I thought I did, but I didn’t. Why? Because I didn’t understand the depth of my depravity and sinfulness like I do now. And I understand that I don’t have the full picture now. I understand that the longer I walk with Christ, the more I will understand how far and how deep my sin goes. I will better understand how great a sinner I am. And therefore, if I follow that logically out, I can come to the same conclusion Paul did: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.” I also better understand what Paul says here:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
– Romans 7:21-25, NIV
As long as I live this life, I will be a sinner. Nothing will change that. Church won’t change that. My own actions won’t change that. My wife and kids won’t change that. My job won’t change that. I am a sinner and a wretched man. Without Christ Jesus, I have no hope. Only He can take away my sins. Only He can cover them with the shed offering of His blood. Thanks be to God that He does. Thanks be to God that He displays His unlimited patience in me. Thanks be to God that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, to save me. May my life bring Him glory and honor for ever and ever.