A Transformed Life

Friday, April 24, 2015, 7:27 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Thank You Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 22:1-21 (NASB).

Paul’s Testimony

In Context, Paul was now in Jerusalem. Some Jews from Asia, having seen Paul in the temple, stirred up a crowd against him, seized him, and brought false charges against him. The whole city was now in an uproar, and people came running from all over the place. Paul was dragged from the temple, the gates were shut, and they tried to kill him. News of this reached the ears of the commander of the Roman troops. He took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. At the sight of the presence of the commander and his troops, the rioters stopped beating Paul. The commander tried to learn what Paul had done, but it was confusing in all the uproar, so he ordered that Paul be taken to the barracks. The crowd kept shouting, “Away with him!” Then, prior to him entering the barracks, Paul asked permission to speak. The commander granted him permission, so he spoke to the crowd.

“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he *said,

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.

“But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

“It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’ And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

What Took Place?

Paul, a persecutor and a murderer of Christians, i.e. of followers of Jesus Christ, was confronted with the Holy One of Israel while he was on his way to persecute even more of Christ’s followers. He was blinded by a light from heaven, and he fell to the ground. He heard a voice ask him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” He inquired as to who the voice was that was speaking to him, and Jesus answered that it was him, and that it was him Paul was truly persecuting in his mistreatment of Jesus’ followers. Then, Jesus instructed him to get up and to go into the city, and there he would be told what he was assigned to do.

Then, in a vision, the Lord Jesus visited one of the Lord’s disciples named Ananias, and he asked him to go find Paul. He was to place his hands on Saul/Paul, so that he could receive his sight. Ananias questioned the wisdom in these instructions, as he knew of Saul’s/Paul’s reputation as a persecutor of Jesus’ followers. Yet, Jesus told him to “Go,” because Paul was God’s chosen instrument to take his gospel to the Gentiles, to their kings, and to the Jews. He was to be Jesus’ witness to all people of what he had seen and heard. Jesus said that he would show Paul how much he must suffer for the name of Jesus. So, Ananias did as Jesus instructed him, Paul received his sight, his sins were washed away, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was baptized, he ate some food, and then he regained his strength.

Then, after several days he began preaching in the synagogues in Damascus that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Jews conspired to kill him, so he was sent to Jerusalem. There he spoke boldly in the name of Jesus, but then the Grecian Jews tried to kill him, so he was sent to Tarsus (see Ac. 9). Before he left Jerusalem, Jesus visited him in a vision and told him to leave Jerusalem, because the people there would not accept his testimony. Paul then stated the obvious concerning his life prior to his conversion, and that the people in Jerusalem were well aware of his former way of life. Perhaps he said this because, in his reasoning, the people there would certainly see the transformation that had taken place in his life, and would believe, but Jesus insisted he leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles.

What’s The Message?

In Acts 26, we have yet another recording of Paul’s testimony of his conversion. In this account of what took place when Jesus visited him on the road to Damascus, Paul gave us a little more detail concerning his assignment from God. Jesus had appointed him as a servant and as a witness of what he had seen of him and what he would show him. He was sending him to Jews and to Gentiles alike “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 Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). Paul then said that he was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. He declared to King Agrippa and to Festus that he had preached to Jew and to Gentile alike “that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (See: Ac. 26:20).

So, what is this saying? What Jesus told Paul and what Paul then preached is the essence of the gospel of our salvation. We must turn from (repent of) our lives of sin and turn to follow God/Jesus with our lives in humble obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. If we have truly repented of (turned from) our former way of living for sin and self, it should be evident, by how we live our lives from that point forward, that we have met with Jesus, and that by the power of His Spirit working within us, we have been transformed away from lifestyles of sin to living for the Lord Jesus Christ in obedience to his commands. And, Paul’s life exemplified this very truth in how Jesus took a man who was a persecutor and a murderer of God’s holy people, his church, and turned him around and made him into a preacher of the gospel of our salvation so that many people believed in Jesus, and so that the church, the body of Christ, were strengthened and encouraged in their faith. Awesome!

Thank You, Lord / An Original Work / May 19, 2011

Thank You, Lord, for saving me;
From my sins set free.
Crucified and risen Lord,
They hung on a tree.
They thought they had finished You.
You came back to life;
Triumphed over hell and sin;
You gave eternal life.

Thank You, Lord, for victory
Over all my sin,
So that I might live with You;
You cleansed me within;
Filled me with your love and pow’r;
Give me strength each day,
So that I might live for You,
To love You and obey.

Thank You, Lord, for your return.
Soon You will arrive
To receive Your bride to You;
Meet You in the sky.
You’ll wipe away all our tears;
Free us from our fears;
Crown our heads in victory.
We’ll praise You with our cheers!