“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy 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; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Corinthians 15: 9,10)
The Bible says Saul of Tarsus watched with great satisfaction as Stephen died beneath a hail storm of rocks. Following that, “Saul made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (Acts 8:3) Then huffing and puffing threats and murder, Saul, his mayhem escalating, screamed off to Damascus after the Christians there. Well, Saul made it to his destination, but with a sore backside and two blind eyes. (Acts 9: 3-9) And Saul of Tarsus became the great Apostle Paul, also known as the “man who turned the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6)
In meeting Christ Paul discovered how absolutely awesome and wonderful and holy the Lord is and how absolutely not awesome, wonderful or holy he was. As the Holy Spirit turned on His searchlight and disclosed more and more to Paul, he realized the malignancy that infected the marrow of his being. In his epistles, he often recounted where his heart had led him before his abrupt meeting with Christ, and even the ongoing battle with it after his conversion. (See Romans 7 and 8: 26,27 for examples of the latter).
The fact is our hearts are dangerous, deceitful, deadly, devious, dishonest, duplicitous dark domains of damnable depravity. Say that ten times fast! We are rotten apples all the way to our Adamic core. Our prideful apple flesh always promises to make us delicious if we provide every thing it desires. So we do, and without fail, end up useless mush on the ground. No matter how hard we try, we cannot produce good fruit from one of those hearts just described.
That is the bad news and it is bad, but even as Paul recounted his failings and unworthiness, he added, “But by the grace of God…” – Yes, God’s grace is the game changer. God’s amazing grace unchains us from our past, present and future. The riches of His grace have made us acceptable in the Beloved and provided redemption and forgiveness of sins. (Ephesians 1: 6,7) That is the good news and it is good!
Only when we truly understand that the depth of our Adamic core is nothing but a whole lot of bad adjectives, can we truly understand the depth of His amazing regenerating and conforming grace. Like Paul, none of us is worthy. Even so, with hearts awash in His grace, we too can declare with the great Apostle: “By the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.”