Every time I read that Paul calls himself the worst of the sinners I have a surge of hope rise within me. Not because I feel better about myself in that I haven't done the things that he did, but because I know the depth of my own sin and therefore have hope that I too am not a lost cause.
So far in my walk with Jesus I have learned two pretty significant things about people.
First, if you are honest about your struggles and where things are difficult for you, it frees others up to do the same. This in turn leads to a decrease in feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and shame. This also leads to an increase in accountability, encouragement, and hope. It's truly a win-win for all involved.
Second, if you are honest about your struggles and where you are coming up short, it can make others incredibly uncomfortable. Think about it, if someone who is a non-believer were to hear you call yourself out as a chief among sinners and acknowledge your need for Jesus (and they are banking on their good outweighing their bad and they think you are pretty good), that is a big wake up call. And even among other believers, to admit that your life isn't perfect makes them pretty queasy if they value their life being viewed as picturesque and you're essentially calling their bluff by owning up to your own cracks in the canvas.
But that's why we can't stop there. We have to tell the rest of the story.
Even as a chief among sinners, God is patient with us and loves us no matter what. That as we seek more of Him, we find our satisfaction in His ways and leave our sinful ways behind. That we don't sit in judgement but rather in places of encouragement to boost others up and remind them of God's great love for them. And that in our darkest moments of doubt, all we ever need to do is look to the cross and resurrection to understand that His love knows no bounds.
It wasn't until I started reading Gospel by J D Greear that I realized the extent of the cross and resurrection. When you memorize John 3:16 and don't understand the depths the gospel goes beyond those words, you are missing out on the most incredible love story ever told and the amazing supporting role with which you have been cast. There is so much more to the story than I ever realized because I never understood it went beyond my immediate need for the forgiveness of a Savior.
What I can tell you though is this. When you begin to understand the magnitude and implications of what Christ has done on our behalf, and you read the words that God thought to put down on paper that we might remember and never forget, you start to develop a love for God and His message that changed the world. That message continues to raise what appears dead back to life and is the stir in your soul that is whispering "Come to Me" in your ears, removing the veil from your eyes, and opening your heart to the abundant life He promised.