Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Trustworthy Saying on Salvation

"You can't turn a pickle back into a cucumber."

Every culture has sayings that become maxims or, occasionally, mantras. "A stitch in time saves nine." "A penny saved is a penny earned."

In the pastoral letters, Paul shares what appear to have been common sayings in the early church that he found "trustworthy." The first and probably the most commonly known today is:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1Tim 1:15).
Amen and hallelujah!

This is the most basic statement of the gospel. It's not the whole of the gospel, but it is the foundation. Christ came to save sinners, and this is Good News because we're all sinners. God saw our sorry state and had pity on us. He came to rescue us from our rebellion.

We would have no hope if it weren't for God's grace. Not only did we have nothing to offer God, we aren't even capable of trusting him without his supernatural help. We weren't just broken, we were dead in our trespasses. Christ doesn't fix us; he gives us life!

And somehow we manage to get prideful anyway.

We tell the story of "the Pharisee and the Publican," but it's still so easy for us to believe that there are those who don't deserve salvation — as if we deserved it! "I may have been a drunkard, a serial adulterer, a blasphemer, and a tax cheat, but murderers can't be saved."

And that's why the best part of this trustworthy saying is the part that Paul almost certainly added himself:

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."

I don't care if you actually were a drunkard, a serial adulterer, a blasphemer, and a tax cheat or if you were saved at six-years-old and the worst sin you'd ever committed was sticking your tongue out at your mommy, that "of whom I am the worst" is the attitude to plant into your heart.

We must never let ourselves believe there is one sin so terrible that someone doesn't deserve to be saved. Every sin is so terrible that we don't deserve to be saved. But God's desire is to save the vilest sinners 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 Tim 1:16).

God can save a child molester. God can save a cannibal. God can save a terrorist. God can save a mass murderer.

I get teary-eyed listening to stories from prison ministries because there are few things more beautiful than telling a man who's been locked away, who's been told society is not a place for him, that God will welcome him into his family.

I tell you if Hitler had repented and trusted Christ, there would have been "rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God" because "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."