As Christians, it is often easy to cover up our dirty laundry and skeletons in the closet or sweep our problems under the rug (anybody else have a cliche to contribute?) because we’re not supposed to have any of that. Christians are good people who follow the rules and do good things for people.
But what if God was so brilliant that He could also use our sin (which we conveniently all have) for His glory?
In the second part of chapter one of the book of Galatians, Paul is writing to a church in Galatia where he has already spent time and taught. But when he hears that they are reverting to the ways of the Judaizers who are distorting the Gospel that Paul has already been there to teach, he writes them a stern letter to remind them of what he has taught them and to directly denounce the legalism promoted by the Judaizers. In this chunk of verses, from verse 11 through 24, he builds up his credibility with the people so that they have no reason to doubt his teachings.
Paul essentially walks his readers through his testimony, which they already know. When he was previously known as Saul, he “persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (verse 13). But, by God’s grace, for His glory, and in His own timing, Saul had a direct encounter with Jesus. I believe Saul, when he became Paul, had an incredibly radical understanding of what God’s grace truly meant. For the love of Christ to cover the evil and sin of a man who took part in the killing of hundreds of Christ followers – that is an unimaginable kind of love. Realizing that he had been saved from the punishment warranted by a wicked way of life by Christ’s grace must have been awe-inspiring.
For us today, it should be just as dazzling. A filthy sinner like me does not deserve the ransom that was paid for me. So to see that it has been paid should inspire nothing but humble praise.
But because God is just fantastic, He not only uses the good in our lives to glorify Him, but He uses the ugly sin that we have been saved from. In Paul’s situation, people could say of him, “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy” (verse 23). How crazy of a sight must it have been. This man who was associated with the slaughter of Christians, joining the fight for the Christian God? And then he throws in that brilliant expression of God’s grace and divine plan. Paul says, “And they praised God because of me” (verse 24). If God can use a man with a criminal record like Paul’s to bring Himself praise… He can do anything.
“And they praised God because of me.” Can those around me say such a thing about me? What if I were to acknowledge the sin in my past and prove that it is God who has broken my chains and covered my sin with His grace? May you always be able to look at my life and see the redemption I have found from a life lived in the chains of jealousy, lust, and insecurity. May you also see that in my daily imperfections and battles with these things, His grace shines through to cover it all.
And, as Paul says in verse 24, may I ultimately be able to say that others could see His grace within me and are praising Him because of me – sinful, messy, silly little me. May this be the prayer of our hearts.