I am Saul!
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:1-6 NKJV
The early church while seeing the power of God work through them, were also faced with the reality of persecution. In Acts chapter 7 they see their beloved Stephen stoned to death for declaring the truth about who Jesus was and what had been done to Him. He was simply proclaiming the Gospel and it cost him his life.
While he was being killed the Scripture tells us that it was all done under the approval and at the feet of a man named Saul.
Saul was a loud and vicious persecutor of the early church and many of Christ’s followers were afraid of him. They could only see him as a threat and not as someone that God wanted to bring into His Church.
What the Church sees as a threat, God sees as redeemable.
This makes me stop and ponder our present global circumstances. The early church understood riots, political upheaval, and persecution. Yet, they made prayer, discipleship and the great commission their commitment. While they struggled to embrace Saul or reach him, God was about to raise him up to be a voice in the church that would carry on until Jesus returns.
What if the people in our world today that we look at as the enemy of what we believe in, God wants to redeem? What if, we believed, really believed that there was no one that God could not recover and bring into the Kingdom? How might that influence how we engage and interact with some of these people? How might that influence how we pray for them?
As long as we see them as a threat to what we believe, we will not see them as the ones that God loves and wants to rescue.
The early church could not reach Saul, but God revealed that He can reach anyone and give them a new identity. This is good news!
We need to remember the Gospel reaches the deepest and darkest places.
It is so easy to get lost in the “media spell”. We look at the condition of the world and see how things just keep getting darker and darker. I am sure that while there was excitement about what was going on in the early church, there was also fear and concern about the increased pressure that was upon them to be silent about the Name of Jesus. We read about their journey like it was all excitement but these were real people who laid their heads on their places of rest at night and likely wondered what tomorrow would bring that could change their level of freedom. Yet, they had caught hold of something that compelled them to persevere in preaching this Good News…..they had been rescued. This Gospel had reached them in whatever places they were in ….it still does that exact same thing today. It rescues, it delivers, it saves…and I pray we remember that while we were sinners that Christ died for us.
His love reaches…..
His love redeems…..
His love is not afraid of the dark…..
We need to remember our own human condition.
The longer we are on this faith journey, the easier it is to forget where we have come from. We begin to think we are doing pretty good and forget our human condition. Lost and broken and in need of a Saviour. If we have attained anything on this road, it is not because we are good, but because He is. The more we move away from understanding and remembering our own former lostness, the less likely we will be to love someone else in theirs.
God has a way of taking us through stuff at times to remind us of our own heart and our need of Him. So, I find myself these days wanting to be less and less of a judge over any man or woman’s life because only God really knows their story. But I also find myself more and more these days being grateful that God loves this life even with this human condition. This realization is so humbling.
We need to love more than we fear offending.
The Gospel is Good News. The early church understood that. We may have lost sight of that a bit in our generation. I am taken back to Stephen, a young man who loved Jesus more than he feared offending the crowd. He knew that God’s love for those men and women that stood ready to stone him was so great that He laid it all down at Calvary. So, Stephen did not hold back. Compelled by love, he did not fear offending.
The message of the Cross will offend, but we must not withhold love out of fear of offending. A broken, lost world needs a Saviour therefore, we must be compelled to let love lead us to share the Good News and trust God with the results.
Now is not the time to be silent. Far from it. May the Good News be the voice of the church in this hour.