1 Timothy 1: 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
The Apostle Paul is such a model to me of a right understanding of our place as Christians. Paul was handpicked by God to be the man to lead the formation of the New Testament church. To Ananias, God said that Paul was a “chosen instrument to bear [His] name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Filled with the Holy Spirit he healed the cripple in Lystra (Acts 14:8-10), cast out a demon in Philippi (Acts 16:16-18), shook off a venomous snake in Malta (Acts 28:5) and much more. This could be pretty heady stuff, and yet Paul calls himself “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16).
This concept would not be embraced by the world today. The common mantra of the world is to “love yourself”, “speak well of yourself”, “build yourself up”. Many sports psychologists would argue that your success in the realm of sports, your ability to reach the pinnacle of your chosen sport, will require you to speak nothing but positive words over yourself. The world would consider Paul’s self-deprecation as counterproductive as it leads to a low view of yourself, and in that place, you are useless to others. But as we often see in God’s word “the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Not only is Paul’s attitude a healthy one, I believe it is a prerequisite for a believer to be a disciple.
For many years I did not understand Paul’s words in this passage in 1 Timothy 1. How can one of the greatest, most effective Christians call himself the worst of sinners? I just didn’t get it. It didn’t make sense to me. Decades after accepting Christ into my heart, God met me in a powerful way and revealed sin in my life. This experience brought me to a right realization of who I was “a sinner saved by grace” and for the first time it caused an inexpressible appreciation for what Christ did for me on the cross.
Understanding our state as a sinner is healthy because it produces humility (recognizing we are nothing without Christ); and freedom (we recognize there is nothing we can do to earn anything, as it is God’s grace). Before I reached this place in my own Christian walk, I had the uncanny ability to clearly see the sins in others, and yet so conveniently not see the sin in my own life. But when God brings us to the cross and we fully understand what Christ did for us, our hearts and conscience become much more attuned to sin in our own lives than the sin in those around us. There may be times where God calls us to address sins in others, but this judgement is in a right place of humility and love and not a place of arrogance and critical judgement (Matthew 7:1-5).
As a Christian Athlete you can be a powerful witness if you choose to walk the life of a disciple. In the verse following today’s scripture, Paul says: “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16). As those around you see this right attitude in you, as they hear and see what God did for you, they recognize that there is nothing they can earn, there is nothing they need to strive to be, but rather they recognize and long for the same in their life. They long to have the peace that you have, the joy you have, because of God’s grace shown to you. You have nothing to point them to, other than the cross. Can you, like Paul, call yourself “the worst of sinners”? If not, ask God to bring you to this healthy place of humility, for in this place he can lift you up and use you to accomplish all he intends to do with your life.