Posts Tagged ‘never too far gone’

1 Corinthians 1:1 — This letter was written by Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, and he says that he was chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. Let us examine this one verse. It seems very simple and straightforward. It is a typical greeting to ancient letter in which the writer introduces himself and his dictationist to the recipient(s) of the letter. It is in that sense, yes, very simple and straightforward. But the sentence/verse is loaded with background and meaning. Paul says he was chosen by the will of God to be an apostle. This is the point that we should dwell on today.

Paul never knew Jesus personally. He was not one of the twelve disciples that were on the inside of the core of Jesus’ earthly ministry nor part of the early beginnings of the church. As a matter of fact, Paul was the opposite of that. He was not one of the rag tag band of fishermen, tax collector, or scribe that made up Jesus’ core team. He did not know hard labor like many of Jesus’ disciples. He grew up the son of Jewish man who became wealthy enough apparently to buy Roman citizenship for he and his family. When he was old enough, he was sent to Jerusalem to begin his formal biblical education. He was an educated man. He studied under one of the great biblical scholars of that age, Gamaliel. Paul was very much a scholar. He knew the Scriptures at a level in depth that probably many of Jesus’ own disciples did not. But, yet, he was not part of the inner circle of Jesus. He never met him prior Jesus’ ascension.

There is a lesson here for us. Jesus can call us at any time from any walk of life. You can be well-educated, like Paul, or you can be just an average joe worker like many of the disciples. Jesus in His Sovereignty can call any of us to ministry. Each of us has talents to offer Jesus and His church. Each Christian has a job to do, a role to play, or a contribution to make. It is not necessary for you to be hand picked by your preacher to play a role in Jesus’ continuing ministry on earth. You have to be willing to hear the call of the Lord and pursue it. The Holy Spirit will find your place and led you to where He wants you to offer your gifts. One assignment may seem more spectacular than another but all assignments within the church, the body of Christ, are necessary for the building up of the fellowship of believers and for the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world around us. We must, as my senior pastor says, be faithful, available and teachable. We must be willing to hear God call us. We must be willing to serve Him. We must be willing to be so in love with Jesus we will serve in whatever capacity that he sets in front of us at this time. We also must be willing to be so in love with Jesus that we will follow His call outside of our comfort zone. He certainly did that with Paul. Paul was used to a life of privilege and academia and God called him to a life that required living off the good graces of others while he preached the gospel in places that were often hostile to him. Let us be willing to hear God’s call on our lives and serve Him with humility in ways that He wants us to serve.

Another lesson that we learn from Paul’s calling is that when we give our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to save us from our sins, God will use us no matter what our past is. Prior to meeting the resurrected Lord on the Damascus road, Paul in his zealous defense of the Jewish faith had murdered, imprisoned, beaten, and ridiculed Christians. He killed Christians for believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Talk about your unlikely candidates to be one of the biggest driving forces of Christianity outside of Jesus Himself. He was a murderer of believers. He hated anything to do with Jesus Christ. And, yet, Jesus on that road to Damascus called Paul to be an apostle. There is nothing that you and I have done in our pasts that is too heinous to be forgiven by Jesus Christ when we come to Him with repentant hearts. Jesus can redeem and use the worst of us. No one is too far gone. If you have run from the church because you have a past, guess what? We all do! Every last one of us are sinners redeemed by the grace of Jesus Christ. If you think that the Christian life is not for you because of some checklist that you have had to keep all your life you’re wrong. That’s religion. Jesus wants a relationship with you. He can redeem you and make you new. He can change your dark heart from the inside out. He has more than enough grace to cover the sins of your past. Just look at Paul. He was a murderer of Christians for being Christian. Talk about your unlikely candidates to be a gospel bearer! He was redeemed from a life of direct persecution of believers into one of the greatest voices of Christianity in Christian history. He can redeem you. He redeemed me and uses me despite my checkered and ugly past and He can do the same with you.

Paul, a murderer of believers, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Redemption. Restoration. Gospel Bearer. He did it with Paul. He can do it with you! There are those who will say there is no way that you can be a follower of Jesus. I knew when buddy! There’s no way that your faith is real. You were such a sinner. You’re too far gone! God is sovereign and can redeem any life no matter how bad it was previously. He can redeem it. He can make it new. He can use your past to be a real part of your testimony of redemption. He can use your talents that you used for evil and use them for good. That is the beauty of a relationship with Jesus Christ. He redeems. He makes new. He calls us to His ministry!

Romans 11:25-36 — Will the Jews who reject Jesus be saved anyway? That seems to be the implication of Paul when you read this passage. It almost seems to say that because God chose Israel as His chosen people that ultimately that fact will save them. Is Paul contradicting himself from his “faith alone” theology that is rampant throughout his writings?

At first, when you read this passage, you think that Paul has pulled a great theological blunder. It is untrue though when you meditate on this passage. It is actually a continuing confirmation of Paul’s theology that it is by faith alone that we come to God. The point of the passage is that even in Israel’s rebellion God still loves them. He has mercy upon them just as He has mercy upon the Gentiles. Paul is saying that Israel will be given ample opportunity to turn to Christ just as He gives the Gentiles. Their rejection of the Messiah does not mean that they and their ancestors are permanently excluded from coming to Christ in the future because God is merciful and patient.

What does this mean for you and me? How do we apply this passage to our daily lives. I think that there are two takeaways from this passage. First, we must not judge those whom we know that are actively rejecting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We are to love them anyway. We are to love the atheist. We are to love the agnostic. We are to love those who know of God but reject Him because they enjoy living their life of sin. We love the person who has never even heard the gospel. God is waiting for them to come to Him. They have as much right to God’s mercy as we do. We too were once rebels against God. It was not until we were humbled before the Lord and saw our need for Jesus that we came into God’s mercy. It is never too late for even the farthest person from God to come the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thus, we keep witnessing. We keep inviting. We must be patient but persistent with non-believers just as God is. Never write anyone off. No one is too far gone until they die without accepting Christ as their Savior. Only then are they too far gone.

Second, we must be merciful as God is merciful. God is patient with us even as we sin against Him. As the Sovereign all powerful God of the universe, the Creator of all things, why does He not just be done with us rebellious people. We sin. We grieve His heart daily. Why doesn’t he just zap us out of existence. Why doesn’t He just bring on the end of the world. This place is pretty doggone screwed up. We as the human race are screwing it up together at an ever increasing rate. To God, there is no pleasure in executing the justice we deserve. Just as a dad when you tell your child that this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you when you spank them for disobedience, God is grieved to execute our final sentence when we have rejected Him for a lifetime and we have never accepted Christ. God is just but He is also merciful. We must be patient with those who reject us. We must show mercy to those who reject God. That means we love those whose lifestyle is in complete opposition to God’s Word. We are merciful. We love them despite their continuing sin. We share the gospel with them. We give them every opportunity to come to knowledge. We keep witnessing. We are patient as God is patient. We are merciful as God is merciful. God is waiting patiently. We never give up because God never gives up. No one is too far gone. God is waiting. He is like the father of the prodigal son. He stares at the horizon daily. Waiting. When He sees his son on the horizon, He doesn’t just wait til his son gets to the house. He runs out and meets him and celebrates his return. God is waiting. He is patient. He is merciful. Just call on His name. It’s never too late while you are still drawing breath.

Father, help me to remember that I too once rejected you. As a result, I should never feel myself superior to those who are not saved. You were patient with me. You are patient with them. Help me not to judge others for continuing to reject you. You loved me enough to patiently wait for me to turn to you even though I deserved to be judged harshly by you. You love me and have patience and mercy for me through your Son. Help me to see the unsaved with the same mercy that you saw me with before I turned to you. Help me to not exclude anyone from the gospel because of where they are now in their rejection of you. It is never too late for anyone to make the choice to turn to you. There are no people groups that I can automatically exclude from the gospel message. You have mercy for all. Amen.