One of the things I love about the mercy of God is its ability to change a life. It really does not matter who we used to be. When God, by His grace, brings us into His family, our life is changed and others see the difference. This is what happened to the Apostle Paul. In writing about his life to young Timothy, Paul penned these words.
1 Timothy 1:12-16, NLT
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
Notice what Paul says about himself in verse 15. He says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Then he added a little personal commentary – “and I am the worst of them all.” Think about all Paul did prior to the point when he was confronted on that Damascus road by none other than Jesus himself. Now, take a moment and think about your own life. Have you blasphemed the name of God? Have you persecuted the church? Have you hunted down Christians? Have you whole-heartedly agreed with the killing of a person who was a follower of Jesus? I suspect your answer is, “No,” to each of these questions.
In light of this, there are three things I want to highlight. As I do, let each one sink in. Reflect on how each applies to your life.
God loves you in spite of your past. Time and again, when looking at the life of Jesus, we see His love for others. Paul, when writing the book of Romans tells us God demonstrated his love for us. And when did God do that? While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. God loves you so much, He did not spare His own Son. Jesus loves you so much, he willingly laid down his life for you. There is nothing you can do that would cause God to cease loving you.
God changes you in spite of your past. This is one of the most powerful things about the gospel and one that makes it different from all other religions. God does not require us to change before we come to Him. When we come in repentance, with sin and all its impact, He takes us just like we are. And then, He goes to work changing us. The Bible tells us we become “new creatures.” That’s because His changing starts in our hearts and works out. It really does not matter what we’ve done, God can change us and make us new.
God uses you in spite of your past. If God can take one who persecuted the church, change him, and then use him to boldly proclaims the good news, he can do the same sort of thing for you. It does not matter what you did in the past. When you come into the family of God, you are a new creature, changed by the grace of God. Now God can and will use you. Just look at what Paul said in verse 16, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” God used Paul as a great example of His patience and love so that many others would see.
God loves, changes, and uses you for His glory and honor. That’s good news to share with those who don’t yet know Him. Speak about this often. Share with anyone who will listen. And then see God do the same in the lives of others He’s done in you!
FROM THE ELDERS—Dr. Bill Denning