He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 32: Unlimited Patience
Look how closely our choice in Christ parallels Adam and Eve's choice in the Garden. If they had trusted their Creator's love for them, they would not have had to resort to their own means to become like God. Once they doubted his love for them, they could only fall back on their best wisdom, which proved woefully inadequate. The elders in Jerusalem faced a similar choice. Would they trust their own religious ways to save themselves, or would they trust God's work in Jesus? Remember these were not self-indulgent men fulfilling their passions by outwardly sinful acts. No, the deception for them was much like it was for Adam and Eve. These were men trying to be godly, or so they thought. They observed cumbersome rituals and traditions thinking that would make them like God. They spurned the pleasures of the world in an effort to earn his approval. But being good wasn't good enough.
They were still engaged in an attempt to save themselves, and they would end up in the same mess as Adam and Eve. No matter how righteous they could be on the outside, it would bring them no closer to God. They were still trusting themselves, instead of him.
Jesus unmasked that most clearly when he called one of their own to himself. Paul, formerly called Saul, had grown up training to be a Pharisee. Everything about his life conformed to their code, such that Paul could later say that no one was his equal in zeal for God and as to legalistic righteousness, he was faultless. With such impressive credentials, you would think him well-placed for God's work.
Rubbish! That's what Paul called that way of thinking. It was boasting in the flesh, he said, and that flesh had not saved him. It had only driven his sin ever deeper underground. Though he appeared to be one of the most righteous men in his day, in reality he was full of sin. He called himself the worst of sinners, because his religious exterior had only been a cover-up for the sin that destroyed him from within. He calls himself a "blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man."
Don't mistake his assessment here as the mere humility of a gracious man. Paul is trying to convince all who would listen that self-righteousness is no righteousness at all. Driven by his desire to be one of the spiritual elite of his day, he had only found himself in greater sin. When Jesus found him, he was in fact killing God's people thinking he was doing God's work.
Why did Jesus save Paul? In Paul's words, "I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:16).
I've sat with people convinced they were far too evil for God to want them. I've often referred to this passage, asking them if they had done worse than Paul had done and haven't ever had someone tell me they had. God saved Paul, so the most broken, devastated and sinful person would feel free to come running under his wing. All they have to do is come.