1 Timothy 1:14-15
And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Paul did some things in his life that he greatly regretted. Surely in a perfect world he would have rather not been a chief persecutor of Jesus Christ, His church, and His people. And while he didn’t dwell on his past, he didn’t forget it, either, because it is a powerful testimony of the grace of Jesus Christ. It represents exactly the work that Christ came to do in all of us. And Paul, more than anything, wanted people to know that saving grace of Jesus Christ for themselves. And if, then, Paul was not beyond the reach of God’s mercy, what an encouragement to others that they were not, either.
It’s so easy to want to forget our past and act like it never happened. And we don’t need to dwell on our past sins and failures and live with paralyzing regret of them. But instead may those things be reminders not of our failure, but of God’s grace and mercy, His love for us to forgive us and save us no matter what we had done. Those things can be an encouragement to others that we weren’t perfect, but that’s okay because it is sinners, not perfect people, that Jesus came to save.
We don’t have to hide the truth of who we used to be or spend the rest of our days running from our past. But we can allow those experiences to magnify Jesus and His goodness and His love toward us. They can be examples to others who may feel like a lost cause. They can encourage others to seek the forgiveness of Jesus for their own great sins. Paul was not proud of the man he used to be, but he would not deny that less-than-flattering part of his story because of the important message that must be proclaimed—We are sinners who need a Savior, and Jesus Christ came for that purpose.
And as we live now for Christ, as we’ve become new creatures in Him and we go forward into what He has for us, we don’t have to leave behind all memories and reminders of who we used to be, but we allow God to redeem those things to be used to show His greatness, to demonstrate the hope that we have because of Him, and to let others know that they, too, can be transformed when they trust Christ themselves. And surely our great Lord is always honored and glorified by that, and His greatness is evident by His great working in our lives.