“God saves sinners.”
That’s the truest sentence I know. I believe it’s the truest sentence in all the world. And that’s really, really good news for a sinner like me.
Someone recently asked what I thought I’d be doing now, at thirty, if Jesus hadn’t saved me. That’s easy, whatever (old Whitney would add “the hell”) I wanted. Even if it meant my own destruction.
You see, before Christ, I was your classic “sinner” type. I was young, wild, and worldly in every sense of the term. I lived for myself and for the moment. Everything I did served those two ends. By seventh grade, I was getting drunk in the backyard on cheap vodka and Kool-Aid. By eighth, I was messing around with guys in the back seat of their cars. By ninth, well, I was just getting started. As each year passed I threw off more and more inhibitions to discover new paths of pleasure.
In theological terms, I was a sinner. Of course, mentored by MTV’s The Real World and the magazine Cosmopolitan, I didn’t know that. But it was true. I was dead in my sins, I was following the course of the world, I was living in the passions of my flesh, and I was carrying out the desires of my body and mind (Eph. 2:1-3). What I thought was the path of life (i.e., living for myself) was actually the road to death. I was on a fast track to destroying my life and didn’t even know it.
But then the wildest thing happened, God saved me—MTV-watching, mini-skirt wearing, boy-crazed, foul-mouthed me. To this day, I’m shocked as I think back on my salvation experience.
The Scope of His Salvation
One day my cousin, a youth pastor at the time, showed up on my doorstep as if out of thin air. He inserted himself into my life, relentlessly telling me about how God saves sinners through Jesus. He picked me up for church on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s and talked to me about Jesus as we listened to Relient K.
At the same time, what I valued most was stripped from me. I made a mess of my relationships through lots of sin. I became disenchanted with the perpetual pursuit of beauty. My hedonistic activities stopped delivering on their promises. I felt empty. Bottomlessly empty. When I sinned to get that quick pleasure, I actually felt worse. It was miserable! For the first time in my life, I wasn’t enjoying sin.
Not only was I not enjoying my sin as I had before, I started to realize that I was a sinner, both by nature and by choice. And it bothered me. I felt guilty. The gospel messages I heard at the time told me that apart from Jesus’s work I was condemned before God. My inner conscious confirmed that this was true. It’s like I saw this big gap between me, the shallow, self-absorbed sinner and God, the perfect, righteous Judge of all the earth. There was nothing I could do to bridge the gap and I knew it. I was definitely a sinner and my sin separated me from God.
But 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Oh, how those words pierced my soul. Indeed, I was a sinner, but it turns out that Jesus Christ came to save people just like me—sinners. He saves whores and addicts, he saves old people and young people, he saves black people and white people, he saves broken people and abused people, he saves shallow people and prideful people, and he saves rich people and poor people.
But how could this be true?!
The Power of Jesus’s Blood
It’s true because Jesus came and lived the perfect life that sinners couldn’t live then died the death that sinners deserved to die. On the cross, he substituted himself in the place of sinners and poured out his blood as an atoning sacrifice for sin. God accepted this payment for sin and raised Jesus to life on the third day proving that his work was sufficient. When sinners look to Jesus and his work, they are forgiven. His precious blood has the power to cleanse them from all sin and shame.
That summer I learned that there was power in the blood of Jesus. Power to save me from Satan, sin, and death. Power even to save me from myself! The words of the apostle John, “the blood of Jesus his [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7) seemed too good to be true. And yet, it was true. Not because I deserved to be saved, but because the merciful, gracious God delights to save sinners through the blood of Jesus.
This lavish grace overwhelmed me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to give into the powerful conviction of God’s Spirit. It didn’t matter if I had to change my life or leave my sin. I had to be close to Jesus! I responded to the gospel in faith and repentance. I turned away from my sin and self and turned to God by trusting in Jesus’ work and was baptized in my local church.
There were a lot of up’s and down’s but, somewhere along the way, God saved me that summer. He gave me a new heart and a new life and a new story. And now I know…that I know…that I know God saves sinners. It’s the truest truth in all the world.
The Truest Truth
What’s the truest sentence you believe, the one you think to be true? The one that undergirds and defines your life? Take a few minutes and think through your story. How would you sum up what you believe most in one sentence?
I have to ask, do you know it to be true? Are you 100 percent positive that it is the truest truth in all the world?
It’s quite unfashionable today for anyone to act as though they have the market on truth, but much like my cousin inserting himself into my life to share God’s truth with me, I’m going to (with much humility and trepidation!) insert myself into yours and offer you the truest truth— “God saves sinners.” He really does. Through Jesus, God can save the dirtiest of sinners.
That’s why I shared my story. If he can save me, he can save anyone. I don’t enjoy airing before the world the embarrassing, shameful things I did, but I do enjoy sharing Jesus and his salvation. Christ Jesus really did “come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). The sentence, “God saves sinners” is as real and true to me as the air I breathe. I know it to be true because it is God’s truth, the final and authoritative truth.
And I want you to know it too. If you are staring at that monstrous gap like I was, wondering how in the world you could ever make your way to God because of your sin, you need to know that God has made a way for you through Jesus. The apostle Paul declares that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Oh, how I want you to know that! To know that there is power in the blood of Jesus to save you and cleanse you from all of your sin and shame. There is power to give you a new heart, a new life, and a new start. All who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. And isn’t that really good news for sinners like you and me?
The Way Forward
If you have never looked to Jesus in repentance and faith, I pray that you will consider the sentence, “God saves sinners.” Think on it. Ask friends or family about it. Find a local church and listen to what they have to say about it. Read more articles about it. Better yet, open up the Gospel of John in the Bible and read all about it. Pray and ask God to reveal the truth to you. If this is true, then ask him to help you believe it.
If you are a Christian, I pray that you will continue to share the gospel with people who don’t know it. I often think about how my cousin was loving enough to confront me with the truth. Let’s be loving enough to share God’s truth with others. Be bold knowing that God’s Spirit is at work in people’s lives, just like he was mine, preparing them to receive the word of truth. It is his work that brings them to saving faith. You just get to share the good news, so share it boldly!
If you don’t know where to start, share your story with them. Tell people how Jesus saved you. Talk about how loving and merciful God is. You could even send this article and ask to talk about it afterwards. Ask what they think about the sentence, “God saves sinners” and dialogue about it. Most of all, always share that there is hope for all who will repent of sin and look to Jesus because God saves sinners.
Whitney Woollard is passionate about equipping others to read and study God’s Word well resulting maturing affection for Christ and his glorious gospel message. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. Whitney and her husband Neal currently live in Portland, OR where they call Hinson Baptist Church home. Visit her writing homepage whitneywoollard.com.