“How could God love and use me?” (a meditation on the regrets of the past and the joys of now)

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Shame.

We all feel it at different times, either for a present failure or a past way of life. The past comes back to haunt you, some people say. We can fear who we were, what we did, and what we feel like doing. It’s these times that the enemy comes and whispers in our ears, “God could never use you. You’re worthless.”

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he wrote to a group of people with a lot of problems. He pulled no punches, either. He told them in no uncertain terms, “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Our sin separates us from the goodness of God.

Paul listed several examples in which most of us could find a home. Maybe its sexual immorality where we have twisted God’s good gift. Maybe its greed and covetousness. Maybe its depending too much on a bottle or a can to drown sorrows and search for happiness. Maybe its…

Paul knew many in the Corinthian church had experienced the things he mentioned. And such were some of you. If that is where Paul stopped, these verses would not carry much hope and joy.

Yet he continued with but—a most powerful tiny contraction. This but changes things. This but pulls us out of shame and guilt and leads us into the joy of God’s grace. This but shows us a new person and a new identity.

In Jesus, we are washed. The sins of our lives once stained us like a child covered in dirt and grime after a day of romping through the mud. Yet God stripped those dirty clothes away, bathed us, and gave us fresh clothes unmarred by the filth. In Jesus we are sanctified. This is to be pure, holy, and righteous like Jesus. It’s a process throughout this life, but it’s also a guarantee. God will rid us fully of the presence and effects of sin, and it will be glorious. In Jesus we are justified. On our own there is shame and there is guilt. We have fallen well short of the righteousness God requires. Yet in giving us Jesus, the one who took our sin, God writes righteousness fulfilled throughout the story of our lives.

We are new. We are set free. We are forgiven. We are God’s beloved children.

underwaterLost and condemned in unrighteousness—such were some of you; but not anymore. This is a glorious breath of fresh air as we emerge from the pool in which we were drowning.

The enemy, Satan, wants to remind us of what was to take our minds off what is. He wants us to dwell on the thoughts of shame and guilt, to suffocate under the questions: “How could God love me? Look at all I’ve done. How could God use me? Look at how much I have failed.”

When God washed our sins away, he washed away the shame and guilt as well. He gives us new life and makes us part of his Family through Jesus precisely because he loves us already (1 John 4:7-21). He gives us new life and makes us part of his Family precisely because he has determined already to use us for his glory (Ephesians 2:10).

When you feel the weight of shame and guilt, when you hear the voice echo in your head, “God can’t use you, you’re not good enough.” Say, “You’re right, Satan, but Jesus is. In him I rest and live. In him I have been washed, sanctified, and justified. In him, I am a child of God and will be used for his glory.” Let this joy of the now overwhelm the regrets of the past.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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