We all have sinned. We, everyone, since early in life has had a sinful past and need the grace of God. Many of us come from good homes and quickly became fairly decent people. Others of us came from rather crazy homes and grew up with a street like mentality and were not decent people at all. Yet some how God has reached out to us and we have found our way into His loving arms as everyone needs to do sometime while living on earth, but with a past.
But by the grace of God I am what I am …(1 Corinthians 15:10) (NASB95)
The Apostle Paul grew up in a good Jewish home. Trained by the best teachers, he excelled beyond his classmates, and became a young pharisee. He zealously kept the laws of the Lord. Then he noticed a new group of people that did not keep the laws of the Lord so be began to seek approval from the leaders of the Jews to persecute them. He arrested them and took them to court for their crimes against Jewish law. This did not please the Lord and the Lord stopped him cold with a vision accompanied with temporary blindness. The experience thoroughly humbled Paul before the Lord and he never forgot that he had once persecuted God’s people, the Christians which he then became one of.
Paul’s past prepared and motivated him to preach the Gospel to most of the known would. The uniqueness of your past has prepared you in a way that God can use us to reach specific people He brings to you so you can minister to them. For you too can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am” when you let the guilt of the past go and let God use you today.
I do not know if the story itself is true or not but, I once read a story of a lady whose testimony told of many terrible sins God had saved her from. I felt bad for her has I continued to read of all she had been through. At the end of her testimony she said she found salvation at an early age; therefore, she never got into any of those sinful things and that is how God had saver her from them. Such a person who trusts in the Lord at such an early age and never looks back, can share with others the faithfulness of God to keep and protect. And truly, “by the grace of God I am what I am” rest on their lips.
Other people must try life their own way without God. They do not want to deal with the “restrictions” He places on them. They dabble in sin until they realized the difficulty they have caused themselves in life. Their way does not work. Only then are they willing to surrender to God and accept God’s forgiveness of sin and life-giving salvation. There may be things they regret doing, things that have lasting consequences, and thing they should never have done. But again, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” is a fitting response. God forgives their sins, but their sins are still part of their past. A person must let the past go. We cannot change our past, but God forgives us of our past sins. One’s past is part of a person, but God can use their past to reach others who have tried similar things in their lives also and can relate to the resulting difficulties encountered. A Christian never becomes unusable to God.
Maybe your testimony sounds much the same as the lady’s above except for the part about not having done the sins because of an early salvation. Maybe you have lived the sins and messed up your life. Perhaps, you are in prison for life because of these sins. You feel you have ruined your life forever and you are useless to anyone, especially to God. This verse is for you also. “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
We may not be able to change ourselves, but God is in the people changing business. He takes in each of us as we are. Then He works on us to make us more Christ-like. God is like a blacksmith to us. If we accept the heat He put on us by revealing the things we need to change and trust Him as we take the pounding blows He hammers on us, we begin to take on a new shape that is more useful to Him. God can use us as we follow him with a changed heart. Because our past along with our walk with Him puts us in a unique position to help the people God brings into our lives.
The more Christ-like we become the more Christ shines through us. This is why Paul can say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” It is not simply because of his salvation. It is because God changed his heart. Things once so important to him became not important at all. Other things have gained importance for him.
Remember 1 Corinthians 15:10. It is by God’s grace you are what you are today and God’s desires to use your “I am what I am” (now), produced by God’s grace in your unique life for good things in helping others to find salvation and strength in life. We may mess our lives up, but God fixes and heals. Trust God and let Him use you to reach out to those He brings your way.
But by the grace of God I am what I am … (1 Corinthians 15:10) (NASB95)
 Acts 9:3–5