The book of 1 John contains a list of the evidences of a life that has been changed by the Holy Spirit and one of the evidences is an awareness of our sinfulness before God.
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8
But is this awareness of sin merely something that we must deal with when we first become a Christian? Is sin (and the gospel) simply “beginner’s Christianity” and then after you have felt guilty about sin for one or two years, you move past that to bigger and better things? After all, this sure seems to be the case from today’s preaching. Sure once or twice a year, there will be “evangelistic” Sundays where the pastor will preach about sin and the gospel. But once you get that over with, you can now go on to spend the rest of the year talking about purpose and self-esteem and gifts and relationships. From the lack of preaching about sin in our pulpits today, it is no wonder that the church has become less aware of sin.
But Spurgeon once noticed that this was not the case with the Apostle Paul. In one of his first apostolic letters, he writes to the Corinthians,
For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. – 1 Cor. 15:9
Many years later, having grown as an apostle and led many people to Christ and planted several churches, Paul writes to the Ephesians,
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ – Eph. 3:8
And finally, towards the end of his life, not knowing what will happen to him, Paul writes to Timothy,
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. – 1 Tim. 1:15
From “the least of the apostles”, to “the very least of all the saints”, to the chief of sinners… As Paul grew in maturity, fruitfulness, gifts, revelations, and intimacy with Jesus Christ that most of us will never experience here on earth, he also grew in his awareness of his sinfulness, until at the end of his life, rather than being proud, he considers himself the worst of sinners. And having become so aware of his sinfulness, he now loves the grace of God in the gospel more than ever before.
This is why we as Christians can never “get over” our sinfulness. If we “get over” our sinfulness, then we will also “get over” the preciousness of the gospel. And if we “get over” the gospel, that means we no longer have God as our greatest treasure.