What a Change!

Monday, April 24, 2017, 9:47 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 9:1-20 (NIV).

Murderous Threats (vv. 1-2)

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Saul, later called Paul, was a religious man. He was a Pharisee, so he knew the scriptures (the Old Testament). He was devout in following what he believed was right. But, he was misdirected. Sometimes people can be very sincere in what they believe, yet be sincerely wrong. He thought he was following God by persecuting and murdering Christians, because he thought that the teachings of Jesus were against God, and against his Word. But, again, he was wrong.

The Jews, by and large, did not accept Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah of Israel, and they rejected Jesus’ claims that he was God, their Lord. They didn’t like it that he healed people on the Sabbath, that he didn’t follow the traditions of the elders, and that he confronted them with their sins. So, they hung him on a cross to die, thinking they had put an end to him. But, then he was resurrected from the dead, appeared alive to his followers over a period of 40 days, and invigorated his disciples to follow him in ministry after he left this earth. So, they also rejected his followers, as well as they rejected the gospel of our salvation, for they believed it was wrong.

A Light from Heaven (vv. 3-6)

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

When Paul (Saul) gave his testimony of his conversion to King Agrippa, he told him how Jesus had spoken to him while he was on his way to Damascus, which is where he was headed to persecute more Christians. Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting him (Jesus), for truly by persecuting Christ’s followers, Christ’s body, it was the same as though he was persecuting Jesus Christ himself. Saul’s response was to ask who was speaking to him, to which Jesus responded by telling him that it was him, and that it was him who Saul was persecuting. And, then the Lord said:

Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

So, even though Saul (Paul) was a persecutor of Christians, who hunted them down in order to bring charges against them, and even though he approved of their murders, and even though he thought he was serving God in all of this, and that he was doing what was right, Jesus Christ had other plans for him, to turn him around, and to use him for his glory. This is called “grace.” Jesus Christ turned a persecutor and a murderer of Christians into an apostle of Christ and a minister of the gospel of our salvation from sin. And, Paul penned the words of God in about half of our New Testament books, too.

And, this grace is the Good News of the gospel of Christ. In other words, believing in Jesus Christ is not just about escaping hell and going to heaven when we die. It is about being turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we can receive forgiveness of our sins. It is about leaving our old lives of sin behind us, being transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and being born anew of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived to his righteousness. This grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt, but it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

A Chosen Instrument (vv. 7-16)

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Not one person is beyond the saving grace of Jesus Christ. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. No matter what someone has done, or even for how long they have lived the way they have, there is always hope. We should never write another human being off, and, thus, consider the person doomed, for we never know what God has planned for people’s lives. He doesn’t choose like humans do. He chooses on the basis of his love and on the basis of his marvelous grace, not on the basis of human performance.

We should also not be afraid if God leads us to talk with someone we feel is against God, or is even a persecutor of Christians. If he wants us to speak to kings, we should be willing to go, and to say whatever he has given us to say. We should never shrink back from saying whatever our Lord wants us to say to any individual, either out of fear of what that person might do to us, or out of a personal belief that someone is beyond the grace of God, because, at one time, we all were separated from God and destined to perish in our sins, and if it had not been for God’s grace, we would not be where we are, either.

Yet, following our Lord in obedience, and in surrender to his will for our lives, in being his witnesses, may mean that we will also be hated and among the persecuted, and we may be called upon to die for our faith in Jesus Christ, too. Yet, we must be willing to go through whatever our Lord requires of us, knowing that he will be with us, and that he will see us through everything which he has planned for our lives. So, we need to trust him fully.

He Could See! (vv. 17-20)

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

Ananias walked by faith and not by sight. He believed God, even though everything in the natural had told him that this was not a good idea. And, he went to Saul (Paul) believing God to do a miracle in his life. And, that miracle did happen. We all should have such faith as this and believe God for miracles of his grace in people’s lives, and be obedient in sharing Christ with whomever the Lord puts in our paths.

The result was that Saul was translated from death to life. He was born anew of the Spirit of God, and not only were his physical eyes cured of his blindness, but his spiritual eyes were, too. His eyes were now open to hear and to receive whatever the Lord Jesus had for him to be and to do. And, at once he began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God. This is grace! This is love, i.e. it is God’s love for us in saving us from our sins and in giving us new lives to be lived for him and for his purposes and for his glory! And, it is our love for him, in return, in desiring to follow him in obedience, too.

My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

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