Did Paul Actually Think of Himself as the “Chief” of Sinners?

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

AMAZING-GRACE1We have all heard it and perhaps we have even said it ourselves.  “I am the worst cook…”  “I am the worst organizer…”  “I am the worst preacher…”  “I am the worst teacher…”  “I am the worst gardener…”  “I am the worst mother/father/daughter/son-in-law…,” etc.

Why do we say such things?  We don’t believe these things when we say them.  So, why do we say them?  I would like to suggest a few reasons.  Sometimes, we just don’t want people’s expectations to be too high.  We don’t want them to be disappointed if we fail to deliver the goods.  Or perhaps we say such things simply to elicit sympathy.  We want people to feel sorry for us.  We want them to pat us on the back and tell us that we are really not the worst, but someone else is.  Often, people say things like these out of a false sense of humility.  We are subtly fishing for compliments.  We want people to tell us that far from being the worst, we are actually the best they know.  Sometimes we say these things due to a very poor self-image.  Life has been so hard for us.  We have been battered for so long.  We are tired and sick of everything and we feel that we owe it to ourselves and the world to say such things.  Self-depreciation has perhaps become a lifestyle.  Sometimes we say such things because we have unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of ourselves.  We are perfectionists and we judge anything less than perfect to be the absolute worst.  But perhaps we say these things simply because we don’t really know what else to say!  We each have our own favorite, well-rehearsed, self-inflicting put-downs which we like to repeat to ourselves and others from time to time.  But if truth be told, we don’t really believe them.  We don’t really know why we keep saying them but we do.

In 1 Timothy 1:15, we have a statement from the Apostle Paul which sounds very similar to the statements we have looked at above.  Paul addresses himself as the “chief” of sinners.  Why would Paul say this about himself?   Continue reading “Did Paul Actually Think of Himself as the “Chief” of Sinners?”

Our Wisest Plans and Best Endeavors

I found the following letter from John Newton (the writer of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace) very inspiring, challenging and encouraging.  It’s full of sound, practical and biblical wisdom.  Very good for the soul’s nourishment and growth in sanctification.  I commend it to you.  Here it is:

John-NewtonWe are disciples–Jesus is our Master.  The world we live in is His school–and every person and event is under His management, designed to forward us in the great lessons which He would have us to learn–such as . . .self-denial, a distrust of creatures, and an absolute dependence upon Himself.

In this view, afflictions are mercies, losses are gains, hindrances are helps, and all things, even those which seem most contrary–are working together for our good.

Creatures smile or frown, caress or disappoint us, friends grow cool, and enemies become kind just as His wisdom sees most expedient to promote our spiritual progress.

Where we look for most blessing, it often comes to little; where we look for nothing, we often obtain most benefit.

Our wisest plans and best endeavors at one time produce great troubles!  At another time, what we do at random, and what we account the most trifling incidents are productive of happy, lasting, and extensive consequences.

It is well for us if, by a long train of such changing, checkered experiences, we at length attain to some proficiency, and can say with David, “My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”

The heart possession of two maxims of Matthew Henry, is well worth all that the acquisition can cost us:
1. Every creature is to us only what God makes it.
2. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God.

In this school I am placed and these lessons I am aiming to learn.  But I am a poor scholar and indeed any master but He who condescends to be my teacher, would turn me out as an incorrigible dunce!

Yet I sincerely wish to be willing to be what, and where, and how the Lord would have me be, to cast all my cares simply upon Him, and to be always satisfied in my mind that He assuredly cares for me!

You can also listen to an audio recording of this letter online by clicking on this link:  Our Wisest Plans and Best Endeavors.

True patriotism! A Letter to Pastors from John Newton

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!   Continue reading “True patriotism! A Letter to Pastors from John Newton”

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

In my previous post, I wrote of the importance of reading Christian biographies.  What I plan to do over the next few days is to share some of the biographies which the Lord has used to inspire, challenge and teach me over the years.  Typically, I will do this every Monday, but for this week, I will share some of them with you in between the other posts praying that the Lord will be pleased to use them to bless you too even as He has used them to blessed me.

I will start with William Wilberforce.  I do so simply because my wife and I just finished re-watching the movie Amazing Grace (released in 2006) which is based on Wilberforce particularly on his fight for the abolition of slave trade in Great Britain.  If you have high-speed internet, you can watch this movie for FREE online.

 

Eric Metaxas as well as John Piper wrote wonderful biographies on William Wilberforce.  I highly commend them to you.  The one by Metaxas is entitled, Amazing Grace:  William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.  Piper’s is entitled, Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce.  I hope you will get a copy of one or both of these for yourself.

William Wilberforce was a man of great courage, tenacity and endurance.  Though there were discouraging moments in his life when he would have been tempted to give up the “fight,” he courageously kept on fighting for his cause and the Lord granted him success in the end.  He was blessed to have people like John Newton by his side encouraging him to keep going.  The move to abolish slave trade was near and dear to Newton’s heart as well. For many years, he was the captain of an African slave ship.  He lived a very grotesque life steeped in sin.  But by the grace of God, he was later converted and became a minister of the very gospel he once despised.  He authored the famous hymn, Amazing Grace whose melody (some believe) was taken from a West African sorrow chant which some of the slaves on Newton’s ship would have sung.  Watch Wintley Phipps talk about that in this video below:

 

Kevin DeYoung blogged on William Wilberforce and concluded his post with the following words:

In Revelation 13 John warns of a terrible beast who is allowed to make war on God’s people. Saints will be taken captive and destroyed. That’s the reality John outlines in verse 10. But the response to such antagonism is not to retreat but to entrench. “Here is a call for the endurance and the faith of the saints.” Some of us may be called to accomplish great things in the cause of Christ like Wilberforce.  Others will be called to endure great trials and suffering and even persecution on account of Christ.  All of us, in a world often unfriendly and unsympathetic to genuine Christian faith, are called to perseverance and faithfulness. There is no hope, no holiness, and no influence without it.

Praise the Lord for His amazing grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace those fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.