Are you rejecting Jesus? Are you ignoring Jesus? Are you fighting against Jesus? Are you attacking Christians? Are you persecuting Christians? Are you trying to tear Jesus and Christians down?
Have you been hearing about the persecution that has been taking place by ISIS? Have you been hearing about the torture and murder going on around the world?
Yesterday we had the topic of “Never say never” and in there we looked at one example of someone who was so against Jesus and His followers that he got permission from the religious leaders in order to go out and persecute them. He was going around looking to round them up and bring them back bound for persecution and sentencing. Saul was on a mission to end “the Way” and was a huge threat to the Christians at the time. There was great fear and many people fled in order to try to escape the persecution. It managed to actually start spreading the new of Jesus. Saul was there when they stoned and killed Stephen. But God had a greater plan that would intersect Saul while he was on his way and turn what the enemy had planned for evil and use it for good. Saul was educated in the Jewish faith and was at a very high level of education but after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus he considered that all garbage or dung compared to knowing Jesus. He speaks to it in Philippians 3 when he says:
3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh,I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,3 blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
–from Philippians 3
Imagine being someone who is so against Jesus that you would be willing to go out and try to capture them all and then kill them. Imagine if God could take all that your past knows and turn your heart around to the point where you would become a speaker for God. Let’s take a look into today’s reading from Acts 9 and Saul’s transformation through the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that turned him into Paul.
The Conversion of Saul
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus,so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly alight from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and goto the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered,“Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
We need to take hold of God’s Word and believe that His Word is true! We need to not hate but defeat hate with love! We need to take hold of what we read in Matthew 5 where it tells us:
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
–from Matthew 5
Is it easy to do? Nope, not at all but we need to be like Ananias and be obedient to God’s Word and His prompting. We need to trust in God and lean not on our own understanding. Obedience is better than sacrifice and imagine having been the one who was used to find a key that opened up the reality of Jesus to the world. Imagine Ananias who was afraid of facing Saul but who in obedience did what God called him to do and released the guy, the apostle Paul, who wrote so much of the new testament. Don’t be afraid, put your trust in God! Don’t give up! Don’t give in! Trust in God!
Are you against Christians and Jesus? Now imagine being Saul and having that encounter on the road to Damascus. What type of vision or dream would it take for you to receive and believe the reality of Jesus? How can God use you to make a difference in the people and the world around you? God’s Word has impacted the world for generations and will continue to for generations to come. Why not take time to start reading God’s Word? Why not consider letting the Words of Jesus come off the pages and speak into your heart? Why not let God’s Word be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? Why not allow the Holy Spirit to plant the seed of faith into your heart today? Why not invite Jesus into your life and ask Him to speak truth giving you the wisdom and discernment you need for today?
Jesus is coming back one day and we need to help as many people as we can enter into His presence as God allows us to for the glory of His kingdom.
Today’s reading from Acts 9 had an impact on the world of art. Today’s reading about Paul’s conversion impacted Caravaggio to paint it twice and which are on display in Rome, Italy.
I thank You for this new day and for all that will be in it. I praise You for Your Word that never returns void. I praised You for the truth that nobody is or can be too far from You to be able to turn around and come to You. Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in You. I ask Lord that You will give them strength and wisdom to be able to complete the work You have for them to accomplish. I ask Lord that You will give them the boldness and courage to never give up! Lord, I lift up all those who are pursuing, persecuting, attacking, and killing Your people and ask Lord that You will provide them with visions and dreams of the reality of Jesus that they wouldn’t continue in the lies of the enemy whose plan is to rob, kill, and destroy them but rather Lord that they will be like the lost son and turn back to You or like a Saul who became Paul in order to spread the truth of Jesus to so many. Lord, I thank You for having touched my life and transformed me. I ask that Your Holy Spirit will have divine encounters that will not only save Your people but will also transform the hearts of those who are persecuting them and turning them back to You. Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear today so that I can speak truth, life, and Your love into the world around me. Help me Lord to make a difference for the glory of Your kingdom. May this day bring You the praise, the honor, and the glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.