How Good Do We Have to Be to Come to Jesus?
(1 Timothy 1:12-16)
So how good do we have to be to come to Jesus? Sometimes we feel unworthy like we're not good enough and never will be. We may have low opinions of ourselves. We feel God could not love us or forgive us for the bad things we've done. These thoughts have spiritually paralyzed some people in history. Some have been immobilized by the amazing thought that in the Lord's Supper imperfect humans share in the body and blood of the perfect Son of God. Many of us just don't think we can ever be good enough to come to Jesus and His Father and ours in heaven.
On the other hand some people feel they are good enough to go to heaven on their own. They don't think they need Jesus to take them there.
For those of us who feel unworthy, unclean, afraid and not good enough, God has an answer for us. He gives us a true-life story about a man not unlike the rest of us who called himself the foremost among sinners. Through the life of Paul the Apostle, God proves His love for even the worst sinner.
Here's God's message spoken through the words of Paul about himself, the self-confessed foremost of sinners: "I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:13-16).
Paul persecuted Christians, had them thrown in prison and even watched as Stephen died. But how could Paul call himself a blasphemer? Paul was zealous for God. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees, a strict observer of the Law. Paul would not break the Third Commandment and use the Lord's name in vain. But at that point in his life he did not yet know that Jesus is God. So he did blaspheme, he spoke and acted against the name of Jesus. He admitted, "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9).
But when Paul was on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians there, he met Jesus. He found out that "the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus" to forgive him (1 Timothy 1:14). God's grace and love are more than adequate to save the worst of sinners who put their faith in Him. Paul made "a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). If he can save the worst of sinners, he can save us. Paul believed in Jesus, confessed his faith and was immersed for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 22:16). Then he carried on serving God as he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:12 which leads up to verses 1:13-16 which we read above, " I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service."
Jesus loves us all and came to die for us so that God would accept His sacrifice in the place of our punishment. Jesus died for all our imperfections, all the bad things we've done, all our mistakes and all the good things we've left undone. He forgives us and unites us with Jesus' death and new life in baptism, clothes us in His love, puts us into service and prepares us to take us to His Father.
In Paul, Jesus showed "His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life." Jesus is patient and waiting for us. Notice that Paul served God zealously before and after He met Jesus. Before, He was one who thought he didn't need Jesus. After, he was one who felt unworthy. Yet, he realized how much God loves him and how gracious He is. He still served God faithfully and zealously but now by God's grace and love through faith in Jesus. He came to know the grace and love of God especially in Jesus' death burial and resurrection, the good news.
How good do we have to be to come to Jesus? In one sense we "come as we are." Then Jesus and His Father work with us, moulding us into the image of Jesus. They prepare us to come to be with them for eternity, perfected by His grace and love through His gift to us of His body, blood, and Spirit.