I Timothy 1:12-15 (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.
“I am the worst of them all.” I am. The absolute worst sinner of all. You want to know a little secret. You are, too. We sit in good company together. One sin would have required every drop of His Precious Blood and demanded the last breath from His Body. If we could just stop right there and meditate on the consequences of a single sin, it would become evident that I am the worst sinner of all and so are you. Horrifying to think that if I was the only person ever created that God would still love and desire me enough to offer His Son as a sacrifice for my transgressions and give Him up for my redemption and restoration as His Child. Humbling yet often forgotten in hierarchy called religion.
The perfection of God includes His Perfect Law. The law convicts us. It reminds us of all the ways to that human has failed and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard. The only way to find our way back to Him is to accept the mercy and grace of our fallen Savior and risen Lord. I wonder if the atmosphere of “church” would change if someone, anyone, or all of us understood that the way to the Father’s Heart and access point is faith in Jesus Christ and full acceptance of His Grace. God has not favorites. He does not lie or change His Mind. The only way to have a right relationship with our Father in Heaven again is through His Son, Jesus Christ. To accept the grace offered to us and live in humble understanding of its infinite worth. I cannot earn it. I cannot deserve it. I cannot repay it. I can only live in it and be a conduit of it.
Matthew 9:2-7 (NLT) Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home!
In Philippians 2, the Word of God instructs us to have the “same attitude as Christ”. Jesus was God. However, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” This is the attitude that believers are to have at all times. In Matthew 9, the struggle of mankind is revealed. Jesus told the paralytic carried to the Lord by faith-filled friends that his “sins are forgiven.” This caused an uproar among the religious group following Jesus. How dare this man blaspheme God! So to prove his identity, Jesus tells the man, “stand up, pick up your mat and go home.” Why is it that the church cries out for miracles, signs and wonders but takes grace for granted in its corridors?
Religion will always require more of the sinner than Jesus Christ. Righteousness is found in Jesus Christ alone. When Jesus forgives our sin, no matter how many or how few, it is finished. He doesn’t require anything other than to partner with Him. He has given us His Spirit as a teacher, guide, leader, developer, cultivator and yes, the one who will convict us in order to produce change in us. Christianity is not designed to create spiritual bullies. Paul confides that he is in his own mind the worst sinner of all time. He is. So am I and so are you. What gives us the right as redeemed to place rules, regulations, rites, and reprimands on others? God’s Grace is enough. He doesn’t need us but desires us above all things. It is time to start focusing on understanding, accepting and emanating God’s Love, Grace and Mercy to those who have wandered, live in darkness or destined for death with the same gospel that we received but have somehow forgotten.
Luke 7:44-50 (NLT) Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
For most of my childhood, I was new kid. I attended 11 elementary schools, and 4 middle/high schools. I was constantly trying to fit in. When you change schools that many times it is hard to stay up on the trends of each community culture. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt the stares of strangers. I could hear the whispers when I walked by. I knew what it was like to feel like an outsider as they judged my whole life by my appearance. By the time I reached high school, I sought out the victims. The ones who were bullied because they didn’t quite fit in. I decided to be their staunch defender. When the cool clique accepted me, I sat with them instead. I invited them to church with me. To meet this Jesus that immediately let me in. My past experiences have crept into my future relationship with Christ. I would rather meet the sinner, loner, lost, broken, addict, homeless or whoever would fall before Him at the altar than engage with a spiritual bully.
What would you do if the “worst sinner of all” came to your church? What would be your response? The Pharisees judged the woman as she worshipped Jesus. She was a woman. She was a shameless sinner. How dare she come and disturb their meeting with such nonsense? But Jesus accepted her humble adoration and worship by forgiving her sins. She didn’t have to clean up or change just came and acknowledged her Savior. Her faith in Jesus Christ fully demonstrated in her submission and surrender. It was enough for Jesus. Is it enough for you?
There are two extremes in the church culture today. There is the “whosoever come” and let us change you into what we have decided is an acceptable person. Then there is the “whosoever come” and do whatever you want it’s all good. God is looking for a remnant of people who are willing to admit “I am the worst sinner of all” and live the life of grace that changed them. People will always struggle with the freeness of God’s Grace. It is not our nature to do so. Grace is sufficient to cover our sins and give us access to the Lord. It is our willingness to abide in Christ that keeps us connected to the flow of His Authority and Power that can change us from the inside out.
Matthew 23:25-26 (NLT) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
The judgment of God’s People is filled with good intentions. The religious duties that become the occupation of a Christian are self-imposed. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. In the verses preceding this passage, Jesus tells them that he sees them tithing and recognizes their obedience but because it is religious it means nothing. The religious culture is a shark tank that destroys new converts every day because when they jump from darkness into glorious light they are quickly set upon by those who think God requires an outward change when God is only beginning to work on their inside. I am so tired of watching religious people pick apart baby Christians. They stand on their rightness. It is not righteousness.
The word of God promises those who are merciful will receive mercy. Be wary of those who tell you what to do. God’s given us a glorious standard to live by. Religiosity is the off spring of religious people. Look for those who live a humble life of true repentance. Those who are encouragers of the Word, doers of the same, but not the ones who require rules and regulations in exchange for redemption. Jesus accepted you just the way you are. He started a good work in you and me that He is faithful to complete. We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. Examining our own heart for true repentance and real love that is the basis of our faith in God and our faithfulness in serving Him. It is not our job to be right but to live in right standing with the Lord. Right standing is not rule following but a loving and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 4:2-5 (NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
I am the worst sinner of all. This is not a confession that renders me helpless. It is the admission of my weakness that allows grace to permeate my life. I am surrendered to Jesus as my Savior. I am submitted to Him as Lord. I still sin every day regardless of my best intention. It is up to me to examine my heart each day and ask for forgiveness for that sin. When I decide that I have the right to judge another or call them to accountability – if there is no love, mercy or grace incorporated in that it is my flesh and not born of His Spirit. Spiritual bullies are born of insecurity. When grace is not fully believed or accepted, it is easy to set a standard to be kept by flesh and maintained by pride that elevates us above another. The truth is I am a sinner just as wretched and deplorable as them. Lord, examine my heart today. God give me grace where I have forfeited it to my feelings. Father, fill me with love for your people – all of them. Help me Lord to never lose sight of the vastness of Your Unfailing Love and copious amounts of grace needed to set me free. I will never be worthy of it but am so thankful I have it.
James 2:12-13 (NLT) So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.