The Worst Sinners Often Make the Best Kind of Repenters

Here’s a question: Who is the worst sinner you can think of throughout history? Or who is just the worst sinner you know? Think a little bit before you answer this one…

Who is the Worst?

“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 immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV)

We all think of the Apostle Paul as a holy man. He was a zealous convert to Christianity, a dedicated missionary, and an amazing theologian. But that’s not how Paul thought of himself. Based on what he wrote, I’m pretty sure Paul believed himself to be the worst of all sinners. Not only had he been a self-righteous “Pharisee of the Pharisees”, but he was also a persecutor of the early church. I’m sure he had a lot to answer for. I’m sure he was aware of the Biblical prediction that every man was appointed to die, and after that, to face judgement. (Hebrews 9:27)

I guess I could be relieved that Paul was the worst sinner, and I could perhaps even feel a little smug looking around at lots of people who are pretty sinful. But what I have been learning over the last few years is that every one of us has a lot to answer for—and that what YOU have to answer for should matter to YOU, and what I have to answer for should matter to ME. I’m not sure the Holy Spirit ever convicts us about OTHER peoples’ sins. I have observed that often the people who think they are close to God seem to be righteous and indignant over the wrong person’s sin.

worst sinner

Finger-pointing May not be Good For You

You may think you have been relatively good, but the more I read Scripture, the more concerned I am about all the things I have done. I’m concerned even more about all the things I haven’t done. James 4:17 says “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” THAT verse can set you back on your heels a bit…

I also see things in Scripture that hold me accountable not just for what I have done, but for what I have thought. (And I hate to admit this, but I have committed far more despicable sins in my mind than I have even had time to commit physically. Perhaps you are different, and never sin mentally or dabble with mental selfishness or depravity…)

Based on my rough assessment of my own personal inventory of sin, I’d have to say that Paul might need to move over and accept his place as the SECOND worst of sinners; he may have over-staked his claim to being worst.

In the real world, my ACTUAL sinfulness has cost me opportunities and relationships, and it has caused immeasurable harm to any number of people, including those I love the most. It has also diminished my own usefulness: how much time have I wasted on sin that could have been spent serving others or spending more time with my Father? How do I account for that? Paul says that it took the “immense patience” of Jesus Christ. His brutal, painful death paid the penalty for sin, and made it possible for a Righteous Judge to offer mercy to all sinners.

It Still Comes Down To Me

So here’s the thing: even if I were the ONLY sinner to ever live, Jesus would still have had to go to the cross for my redemption. It’s nice that Jesus died for the sins of the world, but the main thing to me is that he had to die because of ME. MY sin was incredibly costly. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap: It cost God his Son. It cost his Son his life.

It has become clearer to me that the closer we get to God, the more our own sins matter. We become more convicted. Not in a morbid, negative way (oh I feel so guilty! Whatever am I to do?), but more in a totally different sense. It’s an ‘awareness of the majesty and mystery of Grace’ way (oh I feel so grateful! What, Lord, should I do?).

I hope you are aware enough of what Christ did to be grateful. I hope that we sinners can be aware enough to be deeply convicted as well… If you feel like you’ve been pretty good overall, and you are not somehow devastated by the price that has to be paid for your sins, then you probably ought to do a quick position check. You may not be as close to God as you think.

Who Owns the Title?

Of all the righteous Pharisees, Paul said he was the first;
But out of all the sinners, he proclaimed himself the worst!
Now, Paul preached Christ in every town and prison he was in,
But he still felt inadequate because of all his sin.
We all judge sin from time to time–it’s what we see in others;
We even notice faults among our Christian friends and brothers.
Surely Paul’s assessment of his sins was overrated,
And when He called himself the worst, perhaps he over-stated…
Perhaps we’d see Paul differently and understand him clearer
If we felt worst about the sin reflected in our mirror.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Baseball has Spring Training. When Does YOUR Training Start?

With the exception of 2020, Pro baseball players have always begun their year by going to Spring Training. (And in the summer, Pro football players attend training camp.) Coaches and trainers are engaged, and every resource is provided to help maximize a team’s potential. Athletes use all kinds of training regimens to get into shape and be prepared for the challenges they face. They work out every day in order to be able to perform at the highest levels. In the Spring of 64 AD or so, Paul encouraged Timothy to do the same thing, but with a different end in mind.

The Exhortation

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come… Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, 11-12)

Paul was advising Timothy about how to be an effective pastor, but his counsel carries a few good words of advice for all of us no matter what our vocation. 1) Don’t be distracted by what you hear in the media, social or otherwise. There’s a lot a misinformation floating around out there, so concentrate on the good stuff.

2) Train yourself to be godly. Godliness apparently doesn’t just happen magically, and Paul says that you can pursue it like an athlete pursues fitness.

training

Would you say that you are in training to be godly? What is your daily regimen? What are your goals? How hard do you work? Training doesn’t just happen; it requires thought and effort. Paul points out that physical fitness has value, but that spiritual fitness is something you will carry not only through this life but the life to come.

I get mail from my gym on a regular basis encouraging me to engage the services of a personal fitness trainer. Many people think nothing of spending money to help achieve their physical fitness goals, but does anyone ever think of spending time and money to achieve SPIRITUAL fitness goals? Have you ever thought of doing that?

Equipping the Called

3) “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young”. Paul wanted to encourage Timothy as a young pastor, but I see this as a fill-in-the-blank verse. There are always naysayers and obstacles to overcome in this life, and Paul is saying that they pale in comparison to the high calling of God.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are __________.” Fill in the blank: Not trained. Too old. Inexperienced. Damaged goods. Too ordinary. Too Out of the ordinary. You fill it in. There’s a saying that God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called.

The Example

4) “Be an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” I think that list covers just about everything. Training to be godly has results. If you’d like to reflect these actions and values, work on it. Keep training!

Spring Into Training

Paul tells Timothy that athletes work hard on their fitness,
And challenges him to work out just as hard to be a witness.
Physical training has some value, but spiritual training brings
A godliness, the growth of which brings value to ALL things.
Equip yourself with habits. Every day you can begin
By having time alone with God, to build you from within.
So train your spiritual self, work out! And build your spiritual pecs
Since godliness has value, both in this world and the next!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread