If you are a Christian — if you are a follower and lover of Jesus Christ — are you regularly, constantly, and presently aware of God’s grace in your life? How often do you think of God’s grace? How often do you meditate on what life might have been like without Christ? Are you quick to exalt Christ because of His grace in your life?
In 1 Timothy 1, the apostle Paul offers his own life as an example and testimony of God’s grace. Here is an example of how we might think about our ungodly past and how we might magnify God and His grace. Notice how bluntly he recounts his past:
- I was formerly a blasphemer (v. 13)
- [I was formerly] a persecutor (v. 13)
- [I was formerly] a violent aggressor (v. 13)
- Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (v. 15)
He looks at his past and sees it unflinchingly. He is not proud of his sin, but he is also unafraid to remember it and honestly evaluate his condition without Christ. He was uncommendable and unacceptable to God and he was, in fact, opposed to God in every way. Were sinners lined up and ranked according to their vileness and perversity, he considered himself as the worst of all.
Yet this is not the complete focus of his remembrance. He remembers his state without Christ to stimulate his joy in Christ and to magnify God’s work in his life. Paul had obviously been transformed and the only reason for that change was God’s grace, as he notes throughout this passage:
- I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me (v. 12)
- Yet I was shown mercy (v. 13)
- and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus (v. 14)
- 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.” (v. 16)
As Paul reflected on his past, he saw his life overwhelmed by the mercy and grace of God. Sin was not supreme. God’s grace and redemption were supreme. Evil did not overpower. Christ and His cross were victorious. And Paul’s life further stood as an example — if God could work this kind of grace in his life, then He could similarly work graciously in the life of any other sinner that wanted freedom from his sin.
And notice finally, Paul’s emotive response to this grace — “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (v. 17) When he considered his past perversity in comparison with his present position, he could only respond in worship and exaltation of God. Only God can be honored and glorified for this change. And there is a helpful reminder for us. Looking at our sin and looking at God’s gracious kindness should produce neither ungodly humility or unrighteous self-exaltation and pride, but it should produce joyful delight and boasting in God. “He has done this in my life!”
That’s Paul’s story of grace. What’s your story of grace? What were you before Christ? How did you demonstrate your animosity against God? And what are you now like in Christ? How has God changed you? Do others know your story? And has God received honor and blessing from you because of His work in your life?