Ministry of Love

The intention of this blog is to share Biblical messages at least on a weekly basis. Any response is appreciated. I do not expect everyone to agree with my interpretation of Biblical passages. I will try to respond with love and thoughtfulness.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Three Days, or More Than 30 Years Blind? by John.

Acts 9:1 begins the story of Saul of Tarsus' life changing experience with the Lord. I've heard and preached many sermons about that experience, but each time I think about it, something new, at least to me, strikes me. Saul was more than thirty years of age or he would not have had the recognized status of Jewish manhood. He was a Roman citizen and I really don't know if they considered any special birthday as a transition from childhood to being an adult, but the Jews did. Paul was an adult in their sight, and he was obviously approved and a favorite among the Pharisees. According to Acts 7:58, he was young and considered trustworthy because the crowd stoning Stephen left their outer clothes at his feet to be guarded. The fact is, Saul may have well been just a by-stander at this event, and it may have stirred him to persecute Christians. We don't know when he started down that road.

Young, trustworthy, well educated in a highly respected class of people among the Jews, he was on his way up...he thought!

On his way to Damascus with letters from the top leaders to give him authority to arrest and take Christians to Jerusalem for prison and trial, Saul must have been exhilarated!

Some have thought a thundercloud hung over that party as they traveled. If it did, it wasn't a physical thing, and there is no mention of clouds at all. They neared Damascus, and that's where the action begins. Do you suppose the Lord waited that long for a reason? Perhaps this was an instance when II Peter 3:9 fit the situation: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." At any rate, Saul was about to do something God did not want him to do, and He stopped him in a flash!

Saul fell to the ground as he heard a voice speak his name, and it must have been awe-inspiring! In Acts 9:4 he heard, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" It could have been quietly spoken, but most of us like to think it was loud! The other men with Saul heard the sound, but did not understand anything that was said in the conversation Saul had with God.

It was obvious, Saul did not know God because he had to ask, "Who are you Lord?"

All those years studying the Scriptures had not given Saul eternal life. Instead, with his teacher's influence, Saul was against anyone who disagreed with him. Aren't there a great many people you know like that? It seems to me many Christians fit pretty well into Saul's old pattern. Don't you know some young, well educated, well meaning Christians who only love people who agree with them, and actually hate those who disagree?

Why didn't God let the others understand what He said to Saul? There are many possible reasons, but I'll mention just one. Salvation is a private thing between God and the person involved, in this case, Saul of Tarsus. I'm sure you can think of others possibilities.

Why did Jesus say, "I am Jesus you are persecuting." Note that Jesus has already ascended into heaven, but this is present indicative language. Jesus told Saul he was persecuting Him at that moment! He's the great Shepherd watching over His sheep, and Saul was a wolf about to do them harm, and without doubt had already done others harm. When any Christian is persecuted, so is the Lord by His Own statement right here. That makes me better able to stand up when I believe satanic forces are trying to persecute God's people. I hope it helps you, too.

When Saul stood up and opened his eyes, he saw nothing! Blind! What a shock that must have been! He thought he had everything under control, and then God spoke to him, told him to go into the city where he would be told what he must do and then left him blind! I don't know what Saul thought, but I know it is natural when we have what we call "an epiphany," we expect to leave it enthused, eager, and able; yet, God left Saul, weak, trembling and blind needing someone to take him by the hand and lead him!

I have an idea Paul had this experience in mind when he wrote the Corinthians, (I Cor. 1:26-29), "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

It seems to me that God wants us to depend on Him for all of our wisdom, strength and ability, and I'm happy that He does. There's not been a time in the past almost 70 years when someone complemented me that I didn't feel unworthy of the complement. I remembered that when we've done all that we can do, we are just doing what God expects of us. That opens the way for God to work miracles using us as the beloved tools to do it!

Whether Saul of Tarsus became Paul of God at that time, or not, makes no difference. God prepared him to serve Him as his own child for a long lifetime of achievement and suffering. He became a brand new creature still endowed with all his old culture, position, education and Roman citizenship. All of those things, I believe, God led him through from birth because God sees the end at the beginning. He is that great!

I've had so many come to me as pastor and say, "I just can't do anything! I don't have any talent!" Sometimes they would be in tears because they believed Satan's lies. My reply, after I learned better, was, "You are right! You can't do anything! Neither can I! But our God can do everything! Give Him yourself, and He will show you the way you are to bear fruit in His Kingdom, and that fruit will be excellent! It will please your Father in Heaven!"

Saul was just a Jew with all the same problems all of us Gentiles have. They just looked different to us, and our look different to Jews today, but God is capable to breaking down every wall between and within people to accomplish His will, and to let all of us know He loves us. Let's give Him our lives...maybe we won't have to be blind for three days as Saul was, or for more than thirty years as he was spiritually.


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