“This saying is trustworthy, and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”
1 Timothy 1:15-16 (ESV)
We have some really great discussions in our Wednesday Evening Bible Study. I’m glad to have a group of folks who are interested in digging into the Word, and growing together as we do so. This past week, as we were discussing Romans 1:5-11, I took us on a brief “rabbit trail” to Matt. 25:31 and following, where Jesus is telling about the separating of the sheep and the goats. All too often, we see a passage like this and say, “I need to look more like a sheep then so that I get to enjoy the reward, because the goats don’t fare so well in this story.” That’s not the point of the story at all. Jesus is saying that because those represented by the sheep are recognized by their actions for the faith they possessed that caused them to respond to the needs before them.
For most people in the world, seeing someone else’s need and responding to it out of love doesn’t come naturally. Our natural inclination is to look out for ourselves, and maybe for those close to us that we relate to easily. For those whose nature has been changed supernaturally by the grace of God working in us through His Holy Spirit, we tend to see the world differently. We still have to fight against our selfish will more often that we would like, but there is another voice inside of us, another set of eyes, that cause us to respond differently than we would have prior to coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
What got me wondering a bit was how small that group seems to be in a world that is so set against that. Then I remembered how Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, about the wide and narrow gates. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Do we who have come to faith realize how precious a gift that faith is, and not only did we not deserve it, but the initiative for our faith was God’s doing, and not our own?
A hymn came to my mind, sometime later after that Bible Study that seems to not be terribly familiar, in fact, I could not find it in any hymnal I have, but finally found the lyrics online. It was written by C. Bishop, and called Such Love. I’ll just include the first verse and chorus. “That God should love a sinner such as I, Should yearn to change my sorrow into bliss, Nor rest till He had planned to bring me nigh, How wonderful is love like this? Such love, such wondrous love, Such love, such wondrous love, That God should love a sinner such as I, How wonderful is love like this.”
Perhaps no one else who reads this will remember this old hymn, (though I suspect someone might) and I can’t even remember where I have sung it, but it sums up Paul’s sentiments in the 1 Timothy passage above, and my heart as I reflected on how blessed I am, how blessed any of us are to have come to faith in Christ, and to avoid what will truly be for many on that Day, a horrible reality in eternity.
I know how undeserving I am of that kind of love, and if you’re anything like me, you’re in the same boat. So to use the words of Charles Wesley’s more well-known hymn, And Can It Be, “Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!” Take some time today to reflect on the incredible grace of God.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen