What we can learn from Paul, the 'Chief of Sinners'

KEN ANSELL

The Apostle Paul’s entry point into Christianity was not a casual walk down the aisle of a nice, air conditioned church sanctuary where a well dressed pastor was waiting for him to pray a prayer.  

Paul met Jesus on a dusty, dirt road after Jesus had body slammed him to the ground while rebuking him (Acts 9).  Later Paul was not told that he had just made the most important decision of his life and now his life would get better since he had decided to follow Jesus - instead God said that Paul would suffer and suffer “much” for the name of Christ (Acts 9:16).  This is not exactly how we recruit people to serve at VBS is it?

Ken Ansell

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament (13 out of 27).  He started directly or indirectly 20 plus churches and went on 3 to 4 mission trips that for the most part served as the catalyst for these new churches and the spreading of the Gospel.  Paul did this without an administrative assistant, without any denominational office, without really much of a team at all (in fact many people/partners abandoned Paul), no go fund me account, no social media, no wifi, not even a flip phone, mail chimp or a laptop.  How did he do this?  We struggle to get the Gospel out to the streets we live on or even invite a good friend to church, let alone take Jesus around the world (Acts 1:8).  I don’t want to bring you down but most people in most churches can barely read their Bibles every day or spend any significant time in prayer.  Did you know that only 11% of church going folks have read the Bible from cover to cover and only 9% have read it cover to cover twice?

Was Paul an overachiever? Was Paul so great and so awesome and that’s why he accomplished so much?  Did this guy wear a cape over his pajamas, and was he a spiritual superhero?  Ha, not even close.  He told the Church at Corinth that he was the least of the Apostles, he told them he was not worthy of being called an apostle (1st Corinthians 15:9).  On the top of Paul’s resume was the term, “Chief of Sinners (1st Timothy 1:15).”  And he shared with the Romans that he was confused and that he did not do the good he wanted to do but instead did the things he hated and did not want to do (in other words he was selfish and prideful and a failure by church standards).  Sound familiar?

So, no, Paul was just a guy just like you and me but he loved Jesus, he got the cross, he got sin and he got grace.  He understood how much God loved him and how God progressively changes lives as people stay vitally connected to Christ (John 15:4 - 11). 

Paul could not just sing I have decided to follow Jesus, he could tell you what it was like to actually follow Jesus, to live sacrificially and suffer the way the Bible says all of us are supposed to live.      

It’s passion right. We are where we want to be and we are doing what we want to be doing. That cross is heavy, and we have to pick it up everyday and be reminded of why we do what we do (Luke 9:23). Simple? I don’t think it’s simple, but I do think we make it way harder than it has to be.

Priorities. It all comes down to priorities. Jesus was Paul’s life (Galatians 2:20). What about you? Evangelist D. L. Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” Is that your aim? He asked me to ask you that.