If you peer closely into the 4th chapter of Colossians, verse 9, you will see an unusual name. Here is a man named “Onesimus”. He is most known for being one of the causes that moved Paul to write the short letter to Philemon. Onesimus used to be a slave who was unfaithful in his work and he ended up running away from his master. The very reason we have the book of Philemon is because Paul was urging Onesimus’ master to forgive him for running away and being unfaithful in his work. He had a sinful past. He had a bad reputation in his work.
A public figure can be an upstanding citizen, athlete, minister or political leader for years. He could earn the respect of thousands for the work that he does. He could be known as trustworthy for decades. But the very first time that he messes up, all of the respect that he earned goes down the drain. We have almost become numb to public figures sinning in such a way that the sin is all we can think about when that person is discussed. We would expect the same to be true of Onesimus. He had his chance, right? He messed up and his failing is his new identity.
That is not how the gospel of Jesus Christ works.
We would expect Paul to mention the name of Onesimus and immediately remind us of his shortcomings. But by reading verse 9, you wouldn’t know anything of his unfaithful past. The Bible doesn’t say, “Onesimus, the guy with the sinful past.” No! What does it say?
“Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother.”
Guess what? This guy is complete in Christ. And when you are complete in Christ, you aren’t known by your past, either. You are known by your Savior. This faithless runaway slave is now known as a faithful and beloved brother; and its all because of Jesus Christ.
You may be reading this today with such a sinful past that it would make the mafia blush. But if your life is in Christ, then you have a new identity. You are now known by who Jesus is rather than who you used to be. Your past can’t be so sinful as to outshine the light that Jesus gives in your present.
Your heart may be pleading today,
“There’s no way that I could ever be saved. There’s no way that Jesus could forgive me for what I did. There’s no way that I could join a church. There’s no way I could be be used in ministry because of my imperfections and formerly sinful heart.”
Friend, listen to me right now. There is no amount of sin that Jesus can’t bear. And if you turn from trusting in yourself and begin trusting in Jesus Christ, you will have a new identity in him. You won’t be known for who you used to be, but you’ll be known for the Savior who saved you. Your legacy will be in Jesus Christ.
That’s the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.