I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
– 1 Timothy 1:12-17 NASB (emphasis added)
Paul is quite candid in this letter to his younger associate, Timothy. Of course, there was no denying Paul’s former reputation, because practically all the early Christians knew that he had been persecuting them before he eventually became one of them. Indeed, Paul had been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” We can read of this behavior ourselves early in the book of Acts.
Paul’s story ought to be especially encouraging to us because if God can forgive, redeem, and put into service an enemy like Paul, He can probably do the same for anyone. Paul says as much when he describes himself “as an example for those who would believe in Him.” As Paul had been an example of bad behavior, so he became an example of good behavior.
The confession Paul applied to himself (emphasized in bold print above) is one that we should all adopt. By this, I do not mean that we should all confess that Paul is the foremost of sinners, but that each of us should consider ourselves to be the foremost of sinners.
How can I make this statement about myself? Because I know far more of my own sins than I know of anyone else’s. I only know a portion of others’ lives; I know all of my own. Therefore, I am the foremost sinner I know.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, thank You for coming into the world to save us from our sinning. I especially thank You for saving someone as sinful as me. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.