The Bible says each of us was helpless in our sin before we came to Christ. You were doomed to a life “… with no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12b). Whether you sinned on purpose or not, you were guilty. You had a death sentence on your life. You were a prisoner of sin and there was no freedom or hope to be found.
You began to appreciate your condition when you realized that the “… wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). You understood that your sinful words, deeds, and attitudes amounted to spitting in God’s face. But God didn’t treat you the way you deserved to be treated. He did something infinitely greater than what Captain Miller did for Private Ryan.
The Bible says it this way: “For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:7-8). It goes on to say, “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!” (Romans 5:10). God makes you right with Himself, and He is the one paying the price. His love so motivated Him, that he made us right even when we were his enemies, fighting against him and against his work in our lives.
Appreciating your need for forgiveness leads to a loving appreciation, a gratitude, for what God did through Jesus death on the cross.
The apostle Paul is the ultimate example of this. Paul never got over the wonder of his salvation. He had many reasons to be proud. As a Jew, he had the right heritage, education, and vocation. He even had kept the outward requirements of the Jewish law. But all these accomplishments meant nothing to him compared to what he had found in Christ. Paul wrote: “… But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).
Paul was able to appreciate what he had in Christ because he remembered his former life. He knew where he would be without Jesus Christ. He wrote to his disciple, Timothy: “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry—one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man …. And the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:12-14). It takes humility to remember where you have come from and to whom you owe where you are today.
Paul remembered what he was before he met Christ, and he knew the tremendous price God paid to bring salvation to him. He was overwhelmed at the love of God. It changed the way he viewed himself and the world. He wrote: “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). He so appreciated what Christ had done that it became the sole focus of all his ambition. This loving appreciation, this gratitude to God would be his greatest motivation for sharing his faith.