By Ellen Ceely
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 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. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’” (Acts 9:1–5)
It’s easy to read Saul’s story and judge him for his disbelieving actions. He sought out Christians, bound them, forced them to renounce their faith, and ordered their deaths. The thing is, Saul believed that what he was doing was right. He thought he was serving God by stamping out this blasphemous new “Way” that people were talking about.
Saul’s zealousness was so strong, he wouldn’t listen to anyone. He thought that Christianity was an abomination and an affront to Judaism.
But God intervened. Jesus struck Saul blind on the road to Damascus and spoke to him directly. “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Those words strike my heart with sorrow every time I read them. Jesus felt the pain of his people, and he wanted Saul to understand the truth. Jesus is in the business of redemption and transformation. Only Jesus can transform people we think are a lost cause. And without Christ, we are all lost causes!
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:9–11).
Saul’s story is one of tremendous grace. He became one of the major writers of the New Testament and spread the Gospel until he was beheaded for his faith in Jesus. But his story is ours as well. Apart from faith, we cannot see our lives clearly. We can believe that we’re doing something for God when we’re really fighting against him and his will.
We must humble ourselves before God and trust his redeeming work in our lives. Then we can pray for the Spirit’s help to follow Christ with true, holy passion. He will guide us while we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13–14).
Has there ever been a time when you thought you were doing what God wanted and then realized you were fighting him? Take some time to journal about it. As you walk in faith, remember that God will always correct you if you stray from him and fight his will. Rest in the promise of his unending grace and mercy. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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