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 NIV)
We don’t like to admit that we’re bad at something. Seems un-American for us to do so. Each year, the hit show American Idol takes the first several weeks of its season and showcases the highlights from each of the audition cities that were visited.
It’s always amazed me that some of the young men and women who audition for the show actually think they’re good singers and then fly off the handle or fall to pieces when the judges say “no” to them. More than once, I’ve told my wife that someone, a parent or friend, should have pulled those kids aside and told them the truth – “You’re not good. You need to put your energies elsewhere – anywhere but singing.” Then again, the first six weeks of the show wouldn’t be near as entertaining without the wanna-bees.
Paul told his young protege Timothy that he was the worst of all sinners. What could he possibly base this statement on? The late John Stott, who wrote Basic Christianity, said “Paul did not do a careful study of every sinner in human history and conclude he finished in last place.” Rather, Paul was so vividly aware of his own sinfulness that he couldn’t imagine that anyone could be worse.
We should be impressed by this. The man who gave us half the New Testament and contributed more than anyone to the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire had enough boldness to confront his own sinfulness and enough fortitude to admit that he was the worst. But before we wipe our brow and thank Paul for letting us off the hook, consider this:
When we are truly awakened and disturbed by the Holy Spirit as to our own sinfulness, we would probably say the same thing, so for just a moment today, would you be willing to just consider that you are the worst of all sinners?
Don’t think of your husband’s sin, or your wife’s sin, or your boss’s sin, or the sin of the TV preacher you sent your money to and wish you hadn’t. As we do an MRI of our souls, ask The Lord for a gentle, humble, contrite spirit before him in considering the depths of fallenness. Can we do this?
It is only when we acknowledge our sin that we can take the next bold leap in caring for our souls.
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11 NIV)
Soul work is spiritual war. We really throw the term spiritual warfare out loosely in our day. In some ways we think of it all externally, but Peter says dealing with our sinful desires is an internal thing. These fleshly, sinful desires are literally exercising a military campaign against your soul. It’s a strategic tactic of the enemy designed to take you down and destroy that part of you that so desperately longs for connection with God.
Sin breaks that connection with God and his love, and slowly begins to disintegrate our life. That’s why we have to get it right with our soul and it starts by abstaining – staying away from – sinful desires. Sounds simple enough. Abstain. But we all know it’s easier said than done. It’s a battle. It’s war. Fight it.