“We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross.” David Prior, quoted in The Cross Centered Life, by C.J. Mahaney
Thirty years after his conversion, the apostle Paul, in writing to his young disciple Timothy, has this to say, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Before his conversion, by his own acknowledgment he was a blasphemer for not recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and he was a persecutor of the church. He is certainly referring to these things when he declares himself the foremost of sinners. But he does not say, “of whom I was the foremost”; but, “of whom I am the foremost.” He is evaluating himself in the present tense and he is looking to the cross as his hope.
Paul was a sinner, saved by grace. Paul was also a sinner, being perfected by grace. So are we. He hints at this in Galatians 3:3, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you know being perfected by the flesh?” “Being perfected” is a process, begun but not yet finished. The process begins when we hear the gospel and believe the gospel. The process continues until we are glorified with our Lord and Savior. Until then, we are sinners being perfected by grace.
If it depresses you to think that you are still a sinner, remember that you are meant to focus your eyes daily on the cross, on the love and mercy and grace that are found there in Jesus’ sacrifice for you. The life of the sinner being perfected by grace is the cross centered life.