Meditating on the Will of God: 28: God Uses Sinners
1 Tim 1:15,16 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 unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
Many people when they look at Paul’s words in these verses above say, ‘Oh he must have been exaggerating to make a point.’ No, he wasn’t. When the Holy Spirit convicts us, at that moment at least (and it may be short lived) we feel we are The worst of sinners. Conviction is a very sharp thing; the Holy Spirit takes and apples the truth so it penetrates deep, deep in our hearts and at that moment we feel absolute failures. Once we have looked failure in the face and received the grace and forgiveness of God, we will know this truth. It may not impact us so strongly as we learn to live with it, but we know the truth of it. The person who denies they are a sinner simply has never had a close encounter with God. Those who have had such close encounters, know the truth about themselves – that they ARE sinners, redeemed but still sinners – and they know the truth that Jesus has died for them and the Holy Spirit indwells them to set them free from sin. They no longer Have to sin. They may stumble and commit the individual sin but the life of sin has died and they are now alive to God (Rom 6:10).
Now when we reflect upon the apostle Paul and what he has said, we realise something even more incredible – God uses sinners! Even though he was an amazing Christian and an amazing apostle achieving such incredible things, being God’s instrument to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles, he nevertheless had his weak points. You only have to look at the “sharp disagreement” between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) to see a man who is not good at giving people a second chance and who parted from his co-worker with whom he had gone through so much. It leaves a less-than-perfect feeling about the situation and about him. But God used him. Whether he should have ended up in prison in Caesarea is debatable, but still God used it.
We hold Moses in such high esteem but the truth was he completely blew it at the age of forty and had to forsake his Egyptian heritage for it to be replaced by forty years of looking after sheep in the wilderness. Look at him arguing with God for two chapters and again you see a man who isn’t a spiritual giant. Forty years later after an incredible testimony of looking after God’s new people, he loses his cool and is chastised by God and told he will not enter the Promised Land. A real human being in the hands of an incredible God, that is the story of Moses.
It gets worse. Look at Jacob. A twister, a schemer, a thief, a deceiver. Yes, all of those things and yet a man chosen by God, whose name He will change into one of the most famous in the world – Israel. Look at his son, Joseph, a spoilt brat who God chooses to make the saviour of the Middle East. Then there’s David, described as a man after God’s own heart, chosen by God to be king to replace Saul – who goes on to commit murder and adultery.
Cone into the New Testament and look at the men the Son of God chose to be with him and to become the future leaders of the Church. Consider the leading men. Peter, the big mouth, who eventually denied his Lord three times. James and John known as sons of thunder so violent in outlook were they. Then back to the man called Saul, to become Paul. A self-centred Pharisee who thinks he’s got it together but is in fact diametrically opposed to God, who persecutes, arrests and watches a Christian being stoned. What a choice for a leading apostle!
But all of this screams out the will of God: to take sinful men and redeem them! Yes, that is what God’s will is all about, God working in this Fallen World to redeem men and women, to save them from themselves and make them something special. Jeremiah’s famous words say it all as he speaks out God’s words: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jer 29:11-14). In the wider context they mean that God plans good for us, to deliver us from the captivity of Sin and make us adopted children of God, forgiven, cleansed and empowered. That is the wonder of the overall will of God.