Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 28: Acts 9


Many people feel that they are beyond the reach of God. They feel that there is no way that He could love them, desire to know them, or change them. Often, they have done things that have brought guilt and shame and they feel that these things keep them from God, even if no one else knows about them. In some cases, we may know . . . and even agree with them.

This person and their situation do not agree with the God who is revealed in the Scriptures. God does not want to hold our sins against us. He does not have a limit to His forgiveness. There is nothing that we have done that is "worse" than anything others have done. Instead, God's standard of perfection places us on the same level playing field. We are all sinners and that sin seperates us from Him. It doesn't matter if the act is a white lie or murder, He sees it as sin and it seperates us from His holiness and perfection. We cannot buy into the lie that we, or anyone else, are too far removed from God for Him to change us by His grace.

Saul, later known as Paul, is the perfect example of this. He personally states, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:15-16). Paul saw himself as the greatest of all sinners because he openly opposed the church and persecuted those who believed in God. However, in His unlimited grace, God chose to make Paul the poster child of His desire and ability to change even the hardest of hearts and forgive even the most heinous of sins.

There was never a more unlikely prospect to turn to God. Saul was travelling to find Christians and put them in jail. He was persecuting them and had even overseen some of them being murdered (Acts 7:58). But God was not through with Saul and on a dry, dusty road, Saul met Him. Jesus revealed Himself to Saul in a way that was unmistakable. In this case, God takes the gloves off and leaves no room for debate. Jesus appears in His brilliance from Heaven and blinds Saul. He shows that He is not just some false teacher, but that He is indeed God and that Saul is opposing God Himself. From this point on, Saul is to stop his opposition, humble himself, turn to God, and become God's primary spokesperson to the Gentiles. Saul begins His journey a proud, powerful, independent, up-and-comer in the religioius world. He arrives at Damascus humbled, broken, blind, and dependent.

This is a picture of our lives as well. We embark on life, setting our own course, calling our own shots, making our own decisions. We are often blissfully unaware that those choices place us in direct opposition with God. We are no less an enemy of God than Saul was. This is the Biblical depiction of those who chose to follow someone other than God, including themselves (Matt. 12:30, Luke 11:23, 1 Peter 5:5-7). While we are not better than Saul, we are no worse either. Everyone has offended God, chosen their own path, and become His enemy. And yet, while they were still sinners, before they had turned towards Him, while they had nothing to offer, Jesus gave His life for them (Rom. 5:8). Jesus died for Saul. He died for you. He died for me. He died for each person that you encounter.

It is God's desire that everyone come to this realization (1 Tim. 2:3). He wants everyone to understand that they are His enemy because of their sin, but that He has made the provision for their forgiveness through Jesus' death in their place. His desire is that every person would realize this and turn to Him in faith. It is possible for everyone. You are not beyond the grace of God and neither is anyone else whose path you cross. All can know God and experience Him transforming their life.

That is the promise that Saul's life holds for us. Nobody is too far gone; God can change anyone. The change in Saul's life is remarkable. He is soon known as Paul and is more instrumental in spreading the Christian faith than anyone who has ever lived. God can change anyone. He can take you from wherever you are, pull you out of the mess you've made, change the direction of your life, and use you to change the world. This should motivate us to receive the grace of God in our life. It should also propel us to share that grace with others.

God is a God who transforms lives. Will you allow Him to transform yours? Will you allow Him to use you to transform others?

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