Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15
Joel C. Seifert
There’s a bright, shining moment that starts off every week. In 2017, it starts off our entire year. The words of the absolution ring out: “God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins. By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, he has removed your guilt forever.” Those words sum up one of the greatest truths of Scripture. When God forgives our sins, he does what no resolution or turn of a calendar page could ever do: He makes us new.
Our forgiveness in Christ makes us new
The apostle Paul wrote, “Follow my example” (1 Corinthians 11:1). What kind of example for renewal do you see in Paul?
You see someone who was earnest and worked hard. Someone who read his Bible and went to church. Someone who tried to be a better follower of God every day. But you also see a hate-filled, violence-spewing murderer, lost in his own self-righteousness.
That says so much about where our renewal is found. Apart from God’s mercy in Christ, we are hopelessly lost. Even when we try to leave behind our sins and work to turn our lives around, if Jesus and his cross aren’t the heart of it, we’ll only end up worse than before.
Paul’s renewal happened with a flash of light. Read his story in Acts chapter 9. Yours likely seemed much more ordinary: a message received in faith, a splash of water in the name of the triune God. But the same thing took place. God took an enemy and made him his child. God took someone in the age-old slavery of sin and made him new. “God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins. You are his own dear child.”
Our renewal is ongoing
But Paul’s “example” has more to teach us. He didn’t say that Christ came to save sinners, “of whom I was the worst.” He wrote, “of whom I am the worst.” Paul the preacher, Paul the spiritual father to so many, Paul the missionary looked at himself and
said, “I am the worst of sinners.”
Don’t be afraid to say that too. God calls us his holy children in Christ Jesus, but daily we still fall into our same old sins. God made us new when he brought us to faith, but he’s there to give us constant renewal every day. Every day as you read his promises in the Bible, every day as you remember your baptism, every time you go back to his Supper, he takes those sins on your mind and the guilt in your heart and buries them at the foot of Christ’s cross. When you cry out, “I am the worst of sinners,” he’s there to say, “You are my own dear child.”
God saved us in a brilliant once-for-all act of his grace, and he’s also there every day to . . . wrap us in Jesus’ righteousness to make us new again.
Remember the example Paul set, and you’ll always know how a Christian life works. God saved us in a brilliant once-for-all act of his grace, and he’s also there every day to pick us up, dust us off, and wrap us in Jesus’ righteousness to make us new again.
What a wonderful way to start the year. “You are forgiven. You are his own dear child. May God give you strength to live according to his will. Amen.”
Contributing editor Joel Seifert is pastor at Shining Mountains, Bozeman, Montana.
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Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017
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