He walked up to me during the meet and greet at church. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Brother, this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Now, I am pitiful at memorizing scripture, not because I am unable; but because I’m lazy. However, in this case, I finished his stated verse, “Of whom I am chief.” He paused. “Well, maybe chief at one time,” he replied, “but I’m beyond that now.”
That exchange didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps for him it is true. My experience has been far different. Oh, sure I do not sin in bushels and a peck like I used to sin. Maybe I have left “chief” behind as well. Then again, the closer I have come to the King, the perfect One, the awareness of my “unclean lips” has increased exponentially.
It has been noted that the Apostle Paul, the “original” chief of sinners might have found that to be true also. Paul often identified himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus. To the Corinthian church, he added, “I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (15:9) In his letter to the Romans, chapter 7, he announced his ongoing struggle with sin. Later he described himself as “the least of all the saints”. (Eph 3:8) And it was near the end of his life that Paul used the chief of sinner’s description. The great apostle seemed to get smaller and more flawed in his own eyes the nearer he drew to the Lord of hosts.
There are those who believe any references the Apostle Paul made to sin in his life were B.C., before Christ. He did not have a problem with sin as a Christian. They might be right. But again, that doesn’t paint my picture. I like what Francois Fenelon shares concerning this: “The closer you get to God, the more miserable things you will find in your heart. This is not a negative thing – God allows it to let you lose confidence in yourself. You will have accomplished something when you can look at your inner corruptness without anxiety or discouragement and simply trust God. But you should try to not let yourself fall into temptation.”  To that last sentence, we certainly should, but are we always successful?
The great prophet, Isaiah, “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” Isaiah got real up close and could only say, “Woe is me!” The Apostle Paul got real up close and cried out, “O wretched man that I am! (Rom 7:24) The brother at church said, “I’m beyond that now.” How close is he, I wonder?
 The Seeking Heart