What's Your Story?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 16, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Those words, like the Book of Romans, were written by the Apostle Paul. Just a few verses earlier, Paul wrote to Timothy that he “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (v. 13) before he received grace, love, and faith in Jesus (v. 14). Evidently, Paul spent some time thinking about why God would take someone like him and not only bring him to faith, but also give him such a big responsibility of taking the gospel message he received to “the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). You can see in Acts 8 and 9 how bent Paul was on destroying the church and opposing the name of Jesus before he was converted on the road to Damascus. He was literally on a mission to a foreign city to persecute more Christians when Jesus revealed himself to Paul and then declared to Ananias how Paul would be used for the kingdom. Paul hated the name of Jesus and was zealous in his attempts to persecute those who followed him, but God saved him anyway and gave him a new purpose.

There was more to Paul’s story than just being an incredibly angry, violent, and just all around bad man. He was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-27). We are not told how this happened for sure, but it is likely that his parents or grandparents were granted citizenship as a reward for some service they provided or loyalty they had toward Rome. Ethnically speaking, however, Paul was a Jew, and he was raised with a very strict adherence to the law (Philippians 3:5-6). Having connections to both the Jews and the Romans gave Paul unique opportunities to share the gospel message in ways that not everybody could. He knew the pitfalls of works-centered righteousness and arrogant religion. He understood the hearts of the Jewish leaders and Pharisees because he had been in their shoes. When they were set on killing him, he was able to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11) as a Roman citizen. While he remained in prison, this gave him the opportunity to testify about Jesus before guards, a commander, two governors, and King Herod Agrippa - and that was all before he even made it to Rome!

I share all of this with you about Paul because of what he explains in this week’s passage, Romans 11:1-10. He understands that based on what he had just shared at the end of chapter 10, some might wonder if God had completely rejected and abandoned the people of Israel across the board. Paul says that if that were true, he would have also been rejected. He reminds his audience of his Jewish heritage and explains that he is part of the remnant that God has reserved by grace. If it’s by grace, then it can’t be by works (verse 6), which means the Jews who are still trying to earn righteousness through obedience to the law are not part of that remnant. As I shared above, Paul went from persecuting Christians alongside those individuals to joining the ranks of the persecuted. When you experience that level of a transformation, you are bound to have some people that are very angry with you. They won’t understand how you could change to the point you are going 180 degrees the other way. When you go back and try to share with them the truth, which exposes the lies you used to believe and which still hold them captive, you’ll likely be viewed as a traitor and possibly even a hypocrite.

The consequences that Paul experienced as a result of his repentance and subsequent obedience to Jesus did not deter him from using his “story” to share the gospel message with those who so desperately needed to hear it. In fact, it was a simple calculation. In view of eternity, the consequences for both Paul and those to whom he was sent if he cowered in fear and did not share the gospel would far outweigh the suffering he endured for the name of Christ. Paul would eventually die as a man hated by many, yet content in knowing that he had “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). His focus was on the hope, peace, and freedom found only in a relationship with Jesus, but his “story” allowed him unique opportunities to share it by his words and his deeds.

What is your “story”? What are the things that have happened in your life that give you opportunities to share the gospel that are unique to YOU? God does not celebrate our sins and we never should either. But the greatness of God is that he uses even our past mistakes and the depths from which he redeemed us as parts of our story. I have a very good friend whom God saved from his drug and alcohol addiction and who still gets to interact with some of the very people with whom he used to engage in those behaviors. I may be able to teach them the gospel message and even use some things from my own life that apply, but I haven’t walked in their shoes like my friend has. He risks their persecution to share with them what God has done in his life and the hope and freedom from addiction that he has thanks to Jesus.

Here comes some more truth: YOU still have a story even if you weren’t a drug addict, violent abuser, drunk, adulterer, or career criminal. No matter who you are, you’re a sinner. But you are more than that. You’re from a family that has some conflict and dysfunction. You experienced tragedies. You hurt others who were innocent and were hurt when you were innocent. You have skills and abilities that are unique. You might even have multiple ethnic groups to whom you are connected. I have another friend who leaves tomorrow with his wife to go back to India. My friend grew up in a Hindu family, came to America in search of a business administration degree, then found Jesus instead (he, of course, would say that Jesus found him and that’s true but my sentence sounds better the other way). As he has grown in his faith, asked God for a purpose, and married a woman who is committed to the Lord, he is using his “story” to go back and share Jesus in his home country. He is aware of the dangers, but he is much more concerned about the eternal danger that so many Hindus may be unaware that they are facing.

My two friends who are clearly using their stories to share the gospel message are inspiring to me. They motivate me to consider the uniqueness of where I have been, what I have done, and what took place in my family and home growing up. How can I use my story to serve the Lord and share the gospel? What was God planning for my life all those years ago that is just now becoming obvious? Ask yourself those same questions and commit the answers to the Lord.

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