Sunday, February 24, 2013

Breathing Threats

"Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord
went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, 
so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, 
he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." 
Acts 9:1-2.

Simply put, Saul was not a nice man. He was one of those men that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck, bringing the I-have-a-rock-in-my-stomach feeling wherever he went. He even speaks poorly of himself, saying that he "persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons. (Acts 22:4). 

He first comes into the scene in Acts 7:58, where he watched the stoning of Stephen. So filled with vigor and zeal after seeing this, he began "ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (8:3)"

This guy was nasty! He deserved a time-out of heavenly proportion, which is exactly what he was given. God looked at this man, and decided He would use him. He tells of his "time-out" in Acts 22... But the drastic change can be seen in verse 9, with the first account of what happens.

In 9:1, he is breathing threats against those who follow Jesus Christ.

In 9:18, "immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized..."

(In 9:19, he eats. Being baptized was so important to him, that he was baptized before he ate. Which, if I've learned one thing about guys, means this was huge to him. It ranked above food... And he hadn't eaten in three days!)

In 9:28, after a heavenly blinding, he is "moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord."

27 verses. That's all it takes. In my Bible, I don't even have to turn the page to see this change, and both verses have been highlighted vigorously so that it stands out. God wanted Saul on His side. He told as much to Ananias, the one who prayed over Saul so that he would receive his sight again... "He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles (9:15)."

When God decides, nothing can stand in His way. Who are we to say who will, and will not, carry His name? Who are we to decide if someone is worthy of His calling? If someone deserves to show His Love to others?

Who are we, to think that we can change the hearts of men, with law?

We think we can. We think giving rules, mandates, stipulations, and requirements will force people to follow us in our blindness. We think that saying "no smoking, don't get drunk, pray before you eat, always shake hands, don't sleep around, read your Bible three times a day, brush your teeth after every meal, attend church three times a week, serve on a ministry team, and do not get a tattoo" will somehow show someone that Christ is worth following.

"Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (13:38-39)"

No matter how many rules and regulations we apply.. We cannot change the heart of man with laws. Ananias had the opportunity to show Love to someone who was viewed as a wicked, ruthless man.  He didn't want to, and he struggled with going to Saul in the beginning. But he trusted the Lord, and referred to Saul as his brother (9:17) from the beginning. 

We are here to Love, realizing that only God in Heaven can change the heart of a man. 

Saul became Paul and eventually made it back to Rome, "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:31). Our Lord does not allow our attitudes to stand in the way of His plan, and we are foolish to believe that anyone other than He changes their hearts to make them His Servants.

Saul became Paul, and traveled the world risking his life many times, Because God wanted him too. 

If God wants you to do something for His glory, He will orchestrate your life so that it happens.

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