Radical Transformation

Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:30 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “In Faithfulness He Leads Me” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 8-9 (focusing on chap. 9 NIV): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%209&version=NIV

Great Persecution
(See Acts 8:1-8)

Saul (later called Paul) approved of the killing (stoning) of Stephen. On the day Stephen was killed for his testimony for Jesus Christ a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem. All but the apostles were scattered. Saul began to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging off both men and women, and he put them in prison because they proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. Yet, those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went. Amen! Praise the Lord!

God’s Chosen Instrument
(Acts 9:1-22 NIV)

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. 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.”

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.”

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. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Great Encouragement

This passage of scripture ought to give us great encouragement in praying for the salvation of loved ones, friends, family, neighbors, politicians, and for those who are presently strong opponents to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ not only saved Saul’s life, but he chose him to proclaim his name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. Awesome! No matter where we have been or what we have done, or how broken down our lives may be, God is so powerful that he can radically transform our lives, change our hearts, make us new creatures in Christ Jesus, and he can give us a mighty testimony for Jesus Christ to shake this world, and to see other lives transformed by the power of God!

Yet, Saul had to be receptive, and he had to cooperate with God’s plan and purpose. There are many people who resist the voice of God even under more dire circumstances than this. Saul did have a choice. He could have rejected the voice of the Lord, and he could have still participated in the persecution and killing of followers of Jesus Christ, even if he remained blind, as long as God gave him the breath of life. Yet, he chose to submit himself to his maker, and to do what the Lord said. He was transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, baptized, healed of his blindness, and at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Now, that’s a radical transformation! He went from a murderer and persecutor of Christ’s followers to becoming one of Christ’s followers, and he then moved to teaching others how to become Christ’s followers, too.

And, that is the kind of radical transformation God has in mind for each one of us, too. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny (disallow) himself, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him (see Luke 9:23-25). He said if we hold on to our old lives of living for self and sin that we will lose them for eternity, but if we willingly give up our lives for the sake of Christ and his gospel, we will gain eternal life with God. Paul said that the way in which we come to know Christ is by forsaking our sins, by being transformed in heart and mind (of the Spirit of God), and by putting on our new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (see Eph. 4:17-24). And, Galatians 2:20 says that “I am crucified,” i.e. my self-life has died, “with Christ and I no longer live,” i.e. my own self-will no longer lives, “but Christ lives in me,” i.e. he has taken place of the “I.” “The life which I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is radical transformation!

Yet, this is not something we can do in our flesh or in our own strength, but this is only accomplished through the power and working of the Holy Spirit of God within us, as we cooperate fully with that work, yielding our lives to the control of Jesus Christ.

In Faithfulness He Leads Me / An Original Work / March 20, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures
(Ps. 26:3; 86:11; 91:4-5; 111:7-8; 119:73-76;
Is. 25:1,4&9; 42:6-7; Hos. 2:16-20)

Teach me Your ways, Lord, and I’ll walk in them.
Give me a pure heart. I’ll fear Your name.
Your love is always, ever before me.
Continually I’ll walk in Your truth.
You will cover me with feathers.
Under Your wings I’ll find refuge.
My Lord’s faithfulness will be my
Comfort and my shield.
The works of His hands are faithful and just.
Trustworthy are all of His precepts.

Your hands have made me, and they have formed me.
Give understanding of Your commands.
I have put my hope, O Lord, in Your word.
Your teachings, O Lord, are righteousness.
Lord, in faithfulness You have
Afflicted me so I may learn of
Your unfailing love and comfort
And Your truthfulness.
You are my husband; You have betrothed me
In love, compassion and faithfulness.

O Lord, You are my God, I’ll exalt You.
In faithfulness You’ve done wondrous things.
You’ve been a refuge for those who’re needy;
A shelter in storms; shade from the heat.
This is the Lord, we trusted in Him,
Let us be glad and rejoice
In His salvation which He
Provided through the Lamb.
Open the blind eyes; free all the captives.
Tell them of Jesus: “Be born again!”