Only those who have been amazed at God’s grace can be truly honest with themselves.
The Apostle Paul wrote at the beginning of his ministry:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:9
Paul wrote in the middle years of his ministry:
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8
Paul wrote in the last years of his life:
The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:15
The Apostle Paul, with a descending opinion of himself, from least of the apostles, to the least of all the saints, and finally, the foremost of sinners. To line myself up with Paul, I would say that after 49 years as a pastor, “I’m the worst of all pastors; of all church members, put me last; and of those saved in history, God has used the most grace for me.”
I am the #1 consumer of grace in God’s Kingdom. Move over, Apostle Paul, it’s me!
All our problems lack solutions without the humble ability to see our need for God’s grace. The pain of self-awareness, so great; the price of repentance, too much; this honesty, pridefully impossible.
Instead, we hide, build barriers, accuse others, and become miserably separated from God, others, and self.
Paul literally saw God’s grace. He writes:
I was caught up into the third heaven… and I heard things that cannot be told, which may not be uttered… to keep me from becoming conceited… a thorn was given me in the flesh… I prayed earnestly that it would leave… but the Lord told me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 1 Corinthians 12:1-10
Paul discusses his inadequacy by referencing grace.
There is a theology of grace with the definition endlessly chatted about amidst scholars. Then there is the “third heaven” experience, where a person so bad, who once martyred believers, was taken into heaven, where Jesus leans toward him and tells him things – unknowable things, unbelievable things.
Grace means favor; a gift we don’t deserve, but it also has the relational connotation of someone leaning close to you to tell you a secret.
Imagine your favorite athlete seeing you in public and coming to talk to just you. A concert with your favorite performer, who stops the concert, comes out to you in the audience, and leans close to your ear, sharing a secret.
You are a miserable somebody, like Paul and like Pastor Grant. You are chosen for a special calling and gifting, not because of your greatness, but because of a humility which adores Jesus.
Your calling, His will, a secret between you and God.
Jesus said, “Thanks, Paul, for coming up to the Third Heaven. Now let me tell you something only for you, no one else.”
Now you understand why Paul thought little of himself, did not care about overtures from the world, and wrote about the greatest topic ever – grace.
Even when we were dead… by grace you have been saved and raised up with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:5:6
It’s okay for me to be the worst pastor ever, for you to admit that you were wrong, for me to recognize that I made a mistake, for you to stop being so self-seeking. It’s okay to admit our dirt, for when we humble ourselves, He speaks.
Pastor Grant, the least of all pastors, the worst of all saints, the most miserable of sinners. Jesus is leaning toward me to tell me a secret.