For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.1 Corinthians 15:9-10
I wonder what the Apostle Paul’s inner voice sounded like.
We all have an inner voice. In Romans 8:16 and 9:1 Paul calls that voice our conscience or spirit. We can hear our inner voice constantly. This can be a good, or bad, thing. When our consciences align with the Holy Spirit, we get to enjoy the blessing. However, when our consciences are left to drift, we can suffer the negativity.
In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, we get a glimpse into the potential of Paul’s inner voice. Paul is defending the resurrection of Jesus by describing many of His post-resurrection appearances. Jesus did not raise and then disappear. He was raised from the dead and then appeared to many different people in different places. Then Paul marvels that the resurrected Jesus even appeared to him, for he “persecuted” God’s people.
Remember, Paul, then called Saul, oversaw the murder of Christians (Acts 8-9). His memory would have been filled with the screams and blood of innocent people. He led kill teams commissioned to hunt down Jesus-confessors. He took dads and moms from children and ended their lives. And he thought he was doing it in service to the One True God.
What would his inner voice have been saying to him?
How easily could he have suffered under the weight and darkness of his own memories of what he had done?
How nasty could his mornings have been?
Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15 recounting takes a turn from verse nine to verse ten with the word, “But.” In verse nine, Paul is the one persecuting the church. In verse ten, “But” introduces a new Paul with a new life and a new calling. And Paul’s change has been brought about because of our Father’s grace.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Grace. Living grace. Active grace. Transformative grace.
What kind of impact could God’s grace have on Paul’s inner voice? Do you think Paul still woke with visions and tape recordings of screams and scenes of death that for which he was responsible? Do you think Paul battled inner darkness?
I think he did.
Later, in 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul trained his disciples to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Why such seemingly severe training? Is it not because of the speed with which our thoughts can lead us to dark places? Paul trains others to discipline their thought life out of a need to discipline his own thought life.
I imagine Paul’s inner voice could get dark quickly.
Most mornings when I wake my inner voice is waiting to tell me how blah my day is going to be. My inner voice, let to itself, can be very grey, descending to all manner of self-indulgent darkness with alarming speed. I do not wake singing worship songs with the joy of Jesus leaking through my pores.
Then I pray.
I sit still in the presence of our Father and breathe. I am intentionally relaxing back into our Father’s grace. My day is determined by Him. Who I am is who He says I am. I am NOT beholden to, identified by, or controlled by my inner voice. And, like the Apostle Paul, my conscience has a lot of evidence to pull from to use to accuse me, blame me, or convince me that I am going to fail.
Through my prayer I reject all of it.
I embrace Paul’s belief, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” I have been, and am being, changed. God my Father is at work in me. He is alive in me by His Holy Spirit through the resurrected Jesus. And I am going to live this day, and the next, out of God’s grace.
How pervasive is your inner voice? What are the words, phrases, feelings, or images that you wake to? How clear are you on your, “But by the grace of God”? If you are in Christ then your entire life is by grace. You have a new calling, a new identity, a new life, and a new purpose.
Please consider the magnitude of what Paul did. He oversaw the murder of innocent Jesus-followers. Can you imagine the severity of what his conscience could be saying to him? I do not know what you have done OR what has been done to you. Hopefully you can find in Paul one whose severity of life matches, or surpasses, yours. Nevertheless, even in the depth of what Paul did, God our Father’s grace was more.
You do not have to listen to your inner voice.
Relax back into the grace of our Father and DO NOT MOVE. Stay there. Abide there. Soak there. Drink and eat there. And when you feel yourself getting up to wander somewhere else, breathe. When you wake in the morning and find yourself somewhere else, breathe.
The grace of our Father waits to FLOOD you daily with truth, life, and love!
This is LIFE in the Overflow…
Thank you Jim! This is very helpful! You’re amazing!
We love you!