Over the years I have often heard it said that Jesus chose Paul to be an apostle partly because of his superior knowledge of the scriptures. They believe his specialized training and years of being steeped in the law gave him the needed foundation and advantage to write two-thirds of the New Testament. In doing so they often unknowingly elevate his history as a badge of honor. Though it is true, the Lord will make use of everything we have to accomplish His good, pleasing, and perfect will- nowhere does Paul ever say that he was chosen for his superior knowledge in the scriptures and advanced schooling. In fact, he says exactly the opposite: “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ… and count them as rubbish (garbage).” (Philippians 3:7-8) He actually refers to his previous knowledge and training as a waste! (see Philippians 3:4-8)
But what Paul does point to as a reason for Christ choosing him to act as His apostle is found in 1st Timothy:
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Here Paul identifies, not his previous superior knowledge of the scriptures, but rather being chief among sinners as the primary reason he was entrusted with the gospel as an apostle (see v11-12). He says, “for this reason… Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience”.
Oftentimes we think God has misgivings about using us in His service because of our tainted past when in reality He sees it as an opportunity to reveal His mercy, grace, and patience. An opportunity to reveal His glory! Our sin doesn’t disqualify us it qualifies us to be vessels of His grace.
Without a doubt my pre-Christ years were embarrassing! There really is no other way to say it- disgraceful. The overt stupidity, wastefulness, and shameful behavior associated with that part of my life is something I don’t care to spend much time thinking about or dwelling upon. When I surrendered to Christ, I spent a number of years wrongly believing the Lord would never be able to make much use of me. The best I could hope for was second-class citizenship in the kingdom of God. That was until I discovered the true riches of His super abounding grace!
Yes, sin fractures but grace heals! A life that has been marred and fractured by the destructive nature of sin is a life that can reveal the healing and redeeming beauty of Jesus like no other.
Have you ever heard of the Japanese art of Kinsugi? It’s when broken pottery is repaired with gold. Gold is used artistically to reattach broken pieces or fill in the missing ones. “it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” (Wikipedia)
When we begin to see our lives as a work of art that reveals the glory of God it frees us to unashamedly draw upon His grace for power and strength while running into our destiny. Leaving the past mistakes and bad decisions behind. Not veiled or disguised but filled with grace! Armed with this knowledge we can be assured that everything good and great that gets accomplished through us will reveal the pure goodness of God.
So rather than being bashful about shinning for Jesus though we are full of cracks (of our own making), we can boldly shine knowing the cracks and broken parts have been filled with the pure gold of His grace. Our lives carry great potential to boast of God’s goodness!
If your past is hindering you from unashamedly and openly shinning for Jesus, if you think your pre-Christ life or a past stumbling has somehow disqualified you from living out your calling- I encourage you to consider the true merits of grace. Christ can shine most brilliantly through your cracks!
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14
“You show and make obvious that you are a letter from Christ…” 2 Corinthians 3:3
What a compliment! Paul’s makes this glowing statement about the believers in Corinth from both his personal observation and the testimony of others. This particular group of believers had indeed gone through their share of problems, the kind of problems that could destroy a church and ruin its reputation within a community (see 1 Corinthians 5-6). Yet because Paul was willing to speak and act on the truth of God’s Word, with love and conviction, and pray through the challenge (2 Corinthians 2:4) until victory was secured the “mess” became a message! A powerful testimony in the name of Christ! The kind of love Paul displayed takes courage and conviction.
It is tempting to tolerate evil in the name of love or shield someone we love from the consequences of sinful choices. Our fear of rejection or the pain of watching our loved one suffer can lead us to compromise if we are not discerning. As a mom, my temptation over the years has been to intercede with myself instead of interceding with the Lord on behalf of my children. My rescue efforts usually lead to prolonged or repeated damage. His (Jesus’) rescue plan leads to a transformation of the heart. Ending cycles of defeat and destruction. (2 Corinthians 3:18) My personal faith is demonstrated through my response in the temptation to rescue. Am I seeking something temporary or eternal? Am I trusting in my own efforts or the way of the Lord?
The love of Christ to sanctify and bring an individual into the blessed life that God intends should be our primary motivation!
Father, give me the courage and conviction to respond with Your sanctifying love when I am tempted to take a shortcut or a manmade solution. In the name of Jesus, our great Redeemer! Amen!