“13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent [arrogant] man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:13-14)
Paul had a story. An amazing story. He was a man who was convinced he knew what was right and he was making a difference in the world by helping the world to live as he lived and believe as he believed.
And then he met God, personally, and nothing in his life was ever the same. God turned his obsession with rules into a passion for people. And he spent the rest of his life telling the story of who he was and who he became.
He did not gloss over or hide the old man he was. He spoke honestly about who he once was.
“A blasphemer” who was so convinced of the power of the Law that he was lost in his own self-righteousness and proclaimed the Law as the only way to live.
“A persecutor” who was so driven by a desire to see people follow the Law – exactly as it was written and the religious leaders proclaimed it to be lived – that he had no qualms about punishing people who did not agree.
“An insolent [arrogant] man” who was so driven by a pursuit of perfection that his attention was misdirected away from the real need of that day – hope.
He knew without a doubt he was right that there was no other way except the Law. So he was bold in his quest to eradicate the name and influence of Jesus from among his people.
But look at all that is lacking from Paul in the state of his old man.
What of humility, considering the needs and ideas of others?
What of compassion, considering the trials and pains of others?
What of kindness, considering the hurt and struggles of others?
What of mercy, considering the humanity and frailty of others?
God found Paul at the peak of his passion, when he was on a killing rampage against Jesus followers. And God took that misguided passion and repurposed it for something divinely productive – winning people to Jesus.
And do you know why people were willing to listen to this man who once sought to destroy them? Why would anyone take even a minute to hear this same man who reminded them “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent [arrogant] man”?
Because Paul became a testimony of the power of God’s grace. He was a living, breathing, walking example – standing in front of them so they could see, hear, and touch him – of what God can do when you choose to believe. How else could someone so wretched and vile in the eyes of the Jesus followers come to be so beloved and believed among them?
Paul embraced the new life and new purpose God had for him. And he lived out the rest of his days to the fullest – talking about God to anyone around him. He shined God’s glory through his old self, showing people the radical redemption and divine possibilities available when one chooses to believe in God.
So who’s your old man?
Is she holding you back from letting go, moving forward, and changing directions?
Is she causing you confusion and stirring up chaos into your heart?
Is she driving your life with constant fear and overwhelming anxiety?
Is she provoking you to self-righteousness and the need to always be right?
It’s time to retire her.
Send her to her eternal reward.
Don’t wait for a new year or a major life interruption.
Let her become a distant memory of who you were before you fully embraced God’s grace.
Let your “formerly” become your testimony, like Paul. Allow God to speak life into every area, attitude, and aptitude of your life where you are not living His best life. Allow God to cover you with His love as He rewrites your story into one of being radically changed and healed of everything holding you back from His best life. Allow God to overwrite your anxieties, doubts, and fears with the truth of His faithfulness so you will be bold enough to believe like never before for His best life.
Take your “unbelief” – your weak faith and big fears – and give them to God. Once and for all. Allow God to fill in the spaces of “unbelief” in your heart with His mercy so faith can develop in those places. And watch God start to produce “exceedingly abundant” things in you.
Today is the day God will redeem your “formerly” into His faithfully. So don’t be afraid to let it all go. Trust Him to take it “with faith and love” and give you an amazing new life in its place.
Paul did. And he is still impacting people 2000 years later by his faith and his testimony. He is still encouraging people to trust God, no matter where they are in their life. Because if God would do it for Paul, the most unworthy man, He would do it for anyone willing to receive His grace.
Grace and mercy are waiting. They are ready to transform you from who you are into who He has created you to be. Move toward the Savior waiting to bless you with a new life and “grace … exceedingly abundant”.
Marie Fremin. 6/2/19, 6/7/19.