The apostle Paul was in prison for at least two years. At one point, King Agrippa arrived in town. Festus explained Paul’s case to him, and then King Agrippa said that he would like to hear Paul himself. So, the next day Paul stood before King Agrippa. And the king gave Paul permission to speak for himself. So, Paul made his defense to the king.
Paul then took the opportunity to share his testimony with the king. He told him of his life as a Pharisee, and how he had opposed the name of Jesus, and how he had persecuted the saints of God, who were Jesus’ followers. And then he said…
Acts 26:12-18 ESV
“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”
God’s Beautiful Grace!
Isn’t this a beautiful picture of God’s grace? You see, Jesus takes us sinners, and if we are willing, he transforms us. He changes us. He makes us somebody new, not like the person we were before. He turns our darkness into light. He removes from us the control of sin over our lives. He frees us from our addiction to sin. And he gives us a new lease on life. Amen!
This is what God’s grace looks like! So, don’t let anyone sell you short and convince you that it is grace for the Lord to leave you still under the control of sin, still floundering, still “struggling” with (regularly yielding to) sinful practices. That is not grace! That is hell on earth! It is a lot like taking a drug which was promised to remove your problems only to make them much worse or not any better.
The whole purpose of God’s grace, and the whole purpose for which Jesus died on that cross was that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel that by God’s grace and through God-given faith we would be delivered from our slavery (bondage, addiction) to sin so we would now be slaves of righteousness.
For, Jesus died on that cross not just to transform us but to conform us to his likeness, to make us like him. The truth that is in Christ Jesus teaches us that we are to put off our old selves which are being corrupted through deceitful desires, and we are to be changed in the attitudes of our hearts and minds, and we are to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (see 1 Pet 2:24; Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24).
Imagine with Me
Imagine what Paul would have been like if he had lived the Christian life like many people are doing today. Imagine if he had this modern approach to Christianity that says he could just “believe” in Jesus and have his sins forgiven and be guaranteed eternal life with God but that he could go on living in sin since Jesus forgave all his sins. Imagine what his witness would have been like if he was telling people they could keep on sinning guilt free.
Imagine with me what Paul’s life would have been like if he got together with his friends and they talked about anything and everything but Jesus Christ. What if he took the approach that many Christians are taking today to immerse themselves in the culture and to “stay in your own lane,” and to not talk to people about their sin because you might offend them? Imagine if he just sat around and vegged out on movies and video games.
We wouldn’t have the Scriptures that were penned by Paul, and didn’t he pen most of the New Testament, or at least half of it? And if he lived the kind of life most professing Christians live today in America wouldn’t you think him a hypocrite when he said such words as “imitate me”? He told people to be like him except for his chains, and he didn’t mean chains to sin, but literal prison for proclaiming the true gospel of our salvation.
Do you realize that if Paul and the other apostles and the prophets of old were alive today and they entered into many of today’s church gatherings that not only would they be appalled by what is going on, but they would be compelled of the Spirit to speak out against it? Therefore they would be rejected because they didn’t stay in their own lane and they offended people with the truth. So, they would be encouraged to “go someplace else” where they would be a “better fit.” You can count on it!
Opening Blinded Eyes
Paul was not called to be a motivational speaker to say things that made people feel good. He didn’t sugar coat the truth nor did he skirt the truth in order to spare feelings or in order to not offend people. He taught, instead, that the teaching of the cross is an offense to those who are perishing. So, if the truth of the gospel offends you, what does that say about you?
[Offense of the cross: Galatians 5:11; Teaching (message) of the cross is foolishness (folly, an absurdity) to those who are perishing: 1 Corinthians 1:18]
Paul’s (formerly Saul’s) life was radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Truly he was turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. He was never the same as he was before. He went from a persecutor of Christians to now being among the persecuted for preaching the truth of the gospel of our salvation from sin.
He went from being an opponent of the gospel of Jesus Christ to being one of the main writers of the New Testament, and one of the main teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And his writings, of the Spirit of God, form the primary foundation for us today on the teachings of the gospel. But we have to read them all, and not cherry pick just the ones we like.
So, the message that Jesus gave Paul to give is also the essence of the gospel. For, to be turned from darkness to light means we change. We once walked in darkness (in sin) but now we walk in righteousness and holiness in the power of God. We once followed the course of this world, living in the passions of our flesh, but now we live by God’s Spirit and not by the flesh.
We once lived under the power and control of sin and Satan, but Jesus delivered us from that so we now live under the power and control of God’s Spirit. Our desire now is to please God. We want to serve him with our lives. We want to obey his commands (New Covenant). We want to do what pleases the Lord, and we don’t want to live any more under sin’s control.
And when this is our experience with the Lord, and this is our relationship with him, by God’s grace, through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, and we are no longer making sin our practice, but righteousness now is our practice, we have the hope of eternal life with God and the forgiveness of sins. And we are included in the family of God who are sanctified by faith in Jesus.
But this isn’t us trying to earn our own salvation. This is us walking in the salvation which has already been provided, and which we have received by faith, in the power of God’s Spirit living within us. For, if we don’t do that. If we don’t allow Jesus to transform us, but we remain living in the darkness, walking in sin, we don’t have forgiveness of sins or eternal life with God.
[Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 2 Co 6:9-10; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10]
Days Of Elijah
Artist: Robin Mark
Songwriter: Francis Robert Mark
These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the Word of the Lord
And these are the days
Of Your servant Moses
Righteousness being restored
And though these are days
Of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice
In the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord
Behold He comes
Riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet call
So lift your voice
It’s the year of Jubilee
And out of Zion’s hill
There is no god like Jehovah
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