The apostle Paul writes “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15a).”
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That’s not what we expect. We expect Jesus to come into the world to condemn sinners. We deserve to have him punish sinners. We often act as if Jesus came into the world to teach sinners how to no longer be sinners, by being nice to one another. But that is not what Scripture says. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Which leaves us only one thing to do: Be a sinner. Not too hard, right? After all, we all sin. All of us break the 10 commandments. Even if you can make the claim you’ve never murdered or committed adultery, our Lord teaches in His Sermon on the Mount that to be angry is to commit murder (Matt 5:22); that to look with lust is to commit adultery (Matt. 5:28). Our Lord summarizes His law as “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Who among us can say we’ve done these things perfectly?
That means you are a sinner, and this is good. Because remember: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matt 9:12).” Who among us is so healthy he doesn’t need a doctor? Who among us is so holy that he doesn’t need a savior? Yet this is always where we run into problems. The same problems Old Testament Israel had when they heard the prophets preach. The same problems the scribes and Pharisees had when they heard Jesus teach. The same problem we have today. We deny we are sinners. We refuse to repent. We think that we are righteous and don’t need any help.
We hate to own up to our sins. We say things like: “Sure, I’ve made mistakes. I’ve messed up, but so has everyone else! Nobody’s perfect!” Or the most popular: “I’ve tried my best!” But you haven’t, have you? Honestly tried your best all the time to love God with all your strength? To perfectly love your neighbor as much as you love yourself? We are told “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23), but we just cannot let go of the fantasy of our own goodness.
I urge you to let it go. Because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Then you can say: Hey, I’m a sinner! Jesus came to save me! On a day of thick darkness covering the whole earth, Christ dies upon a Cross. His suffering in your place. His death for your life. His blood like a flood washing away your sins — His blood in a chalice, in a cup- washing away your fear of death, your condemnation. All this comes to you through the cross. Your sin cannot stand in the way. Your death cannot stand in the way. Your troubles cannot separate you from Him. Your savior is Jesus, the one who came to save sinners, who came to save you. That’s a truth that is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.
Pastor Jeffrey Dock, Trinity and Good Shepherd Lutheran Churches