Got a bit distracted with the Acts of God in my own life the past few days; opportunities to serve as a counselor, proffering God's Grace and Truth to many desperate for a chance to try again, and His truth to be successful.
Acts 8 is Saul's sudden conversion. After Steven's death the Church scattered and "Saul went wild" persecuting the church. The blood on his hands from Stephen's death seemed to make him bloodthirsty. The language of The Message is poignant in regard to his angry incursions into homes of believers. Quite a contrast to the peaceful and harmonious fellowship they had been enjoying. Thus, Saul was feared.
But Jesus had had enough, and in one fell swoop stopped Saul dead in his tracks. "Why do you persecute me?" The Good Shepherd made a move to protect his flock, and in a surprising move, drafted a franchise player as His chosen man to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Not surprisingly, this move was met with some doubt and consternation by those who'd know Saul as their nemesis.
But conscripted service isn't without a price, "Now I'll show him how much he must suffer for my name." Paul would now get to experience the other side of the persecution he'd perpetrated. Rejection and threats on his life were soon to come.
Still, Paul persisted in preaching, and eventually won the trust of believers.
What was it like to be Paul? His writings show increasing humility to his sinfulness. "Chief of Sinners" was a title he ascribed to himself. "Christ and Christ alone", "I want to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, have fellowship in his sufferings, and somehow attain to the ressurection from the dead". His passion turned 180 degrees from destruction of the Church to building and protecting it, all the while fully enjoying and passionately pursuing his own relational journey with Jesus.
For anyone with regrets Paul is an inspirational example, "Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Paul had a lot to forget. Regrets were probably numerous, including his sanctioning of Stephen's murder...let that soak in. From Killer to Evangelist. It wasn't the first time a rabble rouser had been gripped by God and it won't be the last.
What do you have to forget? If in Christ Paul could do it, so can we. Time to do a bit more running of the race.
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