This is a trustworthy statement, and everyone should accept it as true of themselves: “Christ Jesus came into the cosmos to save wickedly sinful people, and I am the very worst of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Paul wants all Christians to believe of themselves that they are the worst of sinners. The tax collector in Jesus’ parable had that attitude, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (so NASB). Imagine walking into any room and saying of yourself, “I am inherently the worst person here—the hardest one for God to have saved.”

Is such a view too introspective? Scripture says if you believe that God only had to forgive you a little, that is how much you will love God. Little sin, little love. So, whoever believes himself the worst sinner, ultimately will love God most fully.

• My flesh says that there are good people and bad people, and while I do bad things sometimes, I really am not all that fundamentally bad.

• My flesh says that I am a little better than everyone else, a little more inherently able to be saved.

Both these, of course, are lies. I brought nothing to the salvation table nor did you. Christ, in purchasing sinners, purchased us with tainted and filthy hearts. With all humanity, we had become completely worthless, dead in our transgressions and sins. None is inherently righteous. The seeds of corruption which we fully inherited from Adam are the same ones leading to all the actual sins of anybody, bar none.

So how can all Christians be the worst sinner? All humanity comes from the same lump (Romans 9:21). Everyone in that lump inherited a radically polluted nature at conception (Romans 3:9-12; Psalm 51:5). We all are worst because all are the same in initial depravity. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. God saves all Christians by grace alone.

Abraham did not always fear God. Joshua 24:2 says that he was an idolater. He married his half-sister. He slept with an employee. He tried to pass his wife off twice as simply his sister. But God chose to love him out of his sin and make him a man of whom the world was not worthy. That choice was not because of anything inherent in Abraham.

If I am the worst sinner and God saved me, that means that God can save anybody. As long as someone has breath, I should believe that God can save them. I should pray for them. I should love them. And if I am the worst, when I see the failures of others, I should think on God’s mercy to me, the sinner.