So as mentioned in a previous blog, this February has been the month of trawling through my person journal and discovering or perhaps rediscovering all the amazing things that God has been showing me in his Word over the past 12 months. Perhaps this is one of the best things about a blog; you can get these things ‘out in the open’ and shared without unleashing another sermon series upon people!
As of last year, I have just had a renewed love for the story of Paul’s conversion, not simply for the conversion itself but also for the myriad of extra discoveries that surround this cataclysmic event in Saul/Paul’s life and, it would be fair to say, world history. For right off the bat, when you’re talking about Paul, you’re talking about a person who become one of the most influential people in the history of the world, he wrote over a third of the New Testament.
But it’s all the little things that surround the event that reveal so much about God and his character. Let me share some with you and I pray you’ll be encouraged. Also, it became clear as I thought more and more about it, that this was going to be a bit of an epic so I thought we’d break it up a little, this being part 1.
- God is in the ‘intervening’ business.
Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.
So here’s vintage Saul. First of all, let’s not muck around; what is being described here is nothing less than religious extremist terrorism. Yep that’s right God even loves terrorists. Let that sink in for sec. Then, consider this, much of the New Testament was written by a former terrorist.
God is in the business of intervening. God knows Saul (Paul) better than Paul knows Paul. He knows the reason underneath his behavior. The opposite of faith is fear. If the righteous live by faith, then it follows that the extremist lives by fear. (Including the secular extremist.) But God has compassion on the fearful. We can’t even begin to perceive God and his goodness if we are driven by fear, that is why realizing that Jesus is indeed the one who will not break a bruised reed is such an important realization in our approach to him. (Notwithstanding the importance of his justice and righteousness as well.)
Here is a picture of the greatest mercy of all, one from ‘the other side’ making himself plainly noticeable, revealing himself in the life of a person who is otherwise utterly and absolutely incapable of perceiving him, or even realizing that he’s running down the hyper-religious but Godless track.
There’s only one cure for extremism and it’s not education (Paul had plenty of that) No, it’s encounter with Jesus. So we better start praying for the world’s terrorists.
- God is in the ‘intervening’ business.
No that’s not a misprint, I really am making the same point twice. The above is of course obvious but have you noticed, that God’s intervention in Paul’s life is also his intervention in the lives of all that he is pursuing?
Acts 9:3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him
The Christians in Damascus have no idea that something is ‘outta control and comin their way,’ but God does. God does.
God’s not just rescuing Paul, but also all the people Paul was on his way to get.
Question: Have you ever thanked God for rescuing you from about the million things that have been coming to kill you emotionally, spiritually, mentally and may be even physically….that you never even knew about?
Do we even realize how many things today, even today, that we’re not going to have to go thru simply because God’s watching over us?
He might have saved you from something or someone while you were reading this and you won’t even know about it until you arrive in heaven.
This is why to choose gratitude is to choose an awareness of reality.
But there’s more. If someone asked me do define faithlessness, it’s this: confusing my/our ignorance of God and his activity for evidence against his character or existence. I believe there are a lot of people confusing their ignorance for objective evidence against God.
As faith and gratitude walk hand in hand, so the opposite is true; unbelief and a sense of entitlement. One simply pours petrol on the fire of the other. Therefore, to choose gratitude is a key weapon against doubt.
How much needless frustration and tension do we cause ourselves simply because we’re leaning too much on our own understanding whilst God is at that very moment taking care of it.
- What Jesus’ voice sounds like.
I wonder if a lot of people are trying to figure out the difference between the voice of the Spirit and their own thoughts echoing in their head. That’s why there’s heaps of fluffy Christian stuff on facebook like ‘Satan accuses, God encourages’ and things like that. However, when you look at some of the things that Jesus said to the Pharisees, they were pretty harsh! Also, as Tim Keller points out, “if the god you are worshipping never disagrees with you, you’re probably worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”
It is so easy to call a voice condemning when you’re simply unrepentant.
So how do you learn to know the voice of Christ? Where’s the line between the convicting voice of God (which an extremely insecure person may call condemning) and the genuinely condemning voice of Satan or simply our own thoughts? I think we get some big clues by (funny this) looking at what Jesus actually says to the ‘chief of sinners’ here.
Acts 9:5-6 I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Man I love this about Jesus. He confronts Paul and indeed convicts him in regards to the truth. The truth by the way, is that every pursuit of Paul’s life up until this point has been a complete waste of time. He confronts Paul with the truth.
But that’s it.
There’s no lecture, he doesn’t run through every horrid thing Paul’s ever done bit by bit. Rather, verse 6 starts with some of my favourite words in the entire New Testament: “Now get up.”
God is not interested in ‘taking people out.’ But even in his confrontation of sin God’s ultimate goal is (yes of course forgiveness and reconciliation) with a view to renew, empower and ‘get them back into the game and playing on the right team.’
Meanwhile if I was Satan I’d be getting people to imagine that their case, their history is somehow different, somehow unreachable, somehow irreparable. The more we believe lies like this the easier it is to miss it when Jesus is speaking to us. Because it is possible.
But you are not some ‘special case.’ You are no more out of reach of God’s transforming work that Paul was. Maybe you feel like you’re beyond hope, beyond salvation and beyond ever being able to live a joyous life.
The voice of Christ to even the worst of sinners this side of eternity never finishes with “get out of my sight,” but rather: “get up.”
It ain’t over for you yet.
Isn’t that good news?
So we’ll take a break there and leave it in suspension. We’ll kick off part 2 exploring the reactions of Paul’s traveling companions with: Can you ‘miss’ it?