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Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

The Conversion of Paul

The Conversion of Paul–by Luca Giordano (1690), Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy

Only someone who has personally experienced the powerful, life-transforming love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ can boldly claim that nothing compares to the priceless gain of knowing him. Such a person was Paul the apostle (Philippians 3:8)

In a society in which he had some of the highest and most impressive academic, professional, and religious credentials and achievements, along with an esteemed family pedigree going back thousands of years to the founding of the Jewish nation, Paul was a rising star that burned brightly in his zeal to uphold the laws of Judaism and to persecute the followers of Jesus Christ.

All that changed as he travelled on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians and he encountered the risen Jesus in a dazzling blaze of light from heaven (Acts 9). As a result of his decision to follow and serve Jesus, he lost everything, and gave up every thing that previously mattered to him—his high standing in Jewish religious and political society, his credentials, and his thoroughbred pedigree (Phil 3:4-9).

Even his immediate and extended family probably rejected him, and since he was a Pharisee, it is likely that he was once married, but his wife might have died by the time of his conversion to Christ, or left him after his conversion (see Creasy and Burk).

Paul realized that all the things that he thought were important in his life before Christ were powerless to save him and bring him into fellowship with God. So he dumped them all as utter rubbish—excrement! (Phil. 3:8)

It was only through his faith in Jesus Christ that saved him and offered him the priceless gift of knowing Christ, and he declared:

For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead! (Phil. 3:9-11, NLT)

When Paul wrote about knowing Jesus Christ, he was not referring to intellectual knowledge alone; he meant the personal knowledge that comes from the most intimate relationship and union between two people—and he found that in Christ.

And as we, too, become one with Christ through faith and intimate knowledge of him, we experience the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, power that enables us to:

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 11.07.20 PM• Die to our sinful nature, so that we can live transformed for him and like him

• Share in his suffering and be comforted by him, so that we can comfort others in their sufferings

• Someday rise from the dead in new resurrected bodies, fit for eternity in God’s glorious Kingdom

And so like Paul, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, we press on towards the goal of being all that Jesus Christ saved us for and wants us to be, and we strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us up to heaven. (Phil. 3:13-14)

Until that glorious Resurrection Morning, we who have experienced the grace and forgiveness of our sins through the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, must choose each day how to live in gratitude to our Lord.

Gloria Gaither

Gloria Gaither

In that vein, Gloria Gaither, my sister alum from Anderson University, penned these words as a prayer and a hymn that capture her commitment to live for Christ. As you listen to the words and music performed by the Gaither Vocal Band in the video below, I hope that you will be inspired to live each day experiencing that priceless gain of intimately knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Then Shall Live

I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven;
I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father;
I am his child, and I am not afraid.
So greatly pardoned, I’ll forgive another;
The law of love I gladly will obey.

I then shall live as one who’s learned compassion;
I’ve been so loved that I’ll risk loving too.
I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;
I’ll dare to see another’s point of view.
And when relationships demand commitment,
Then I’ll be there to care and follow through.

Your Kingdom come around and through and in me,
Your power and glory, let them shine through me;
Your hallowed name, O may I bear with honor,
And may your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
And may you feed a hungry world through me.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

******

Please note: If you cannot open the video, click the title of the post to go to the actual blog site.

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Paul was livid.

It had been more than two years since young John Mark had deserted him and Barnabas in Pamphylia on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor (Acts 13:13), and now Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark, his cousin, with them to revisit the new believers in those cities.

Paul refused. He still burned with anger over the desertion. Maybe the journey had been too difficult and hazardous for John Mark; maybe he had been homesick for his mother, Mary, who was back home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12); or maybe he hadn’t liked how the team had gone from “Barnabas and Saul” to “Saul and Barnabas” to “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 11-15).

Whatever John Mark’s reason had been, Paul didn’t want him on the next mission journey.

Paul and Barnabas argued over this, and when they could not come to an agreement, they decided to go on separate journeys—Paul would take Silas, and Barnabas would take John Mark to minister on the island of Cyprus.

Barnabas’ decision to give John Mark another chance wasn’t just because they were cousins (Colossians 4:10). It was Barnabas’ nature to encourage people. In fact, his real name was Joseph, and he had developed such a reputation of coming alongside people and encouraging them, that the Christians in Jerusalem called him Barnabas—meaning “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36).

And it had been Barnabas who had encouraged the apostles to accept the newly converted Saul (later called Paul) into Christian fellowship and ministry (Acts 9:26-30), even though Saul had persecuted Christians before Jesus dramatically changed his life on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

We are not told what changes John Mark went through during those two years after he returned to Jerusalem, but it is likely that Barnabas might have counseled and mentored him and might have seen a new level of maturity in him that convinced Barnabas to give him another chance.

Barnabas’ patient investment in the young life of John Mark proved fruitful to the Christian movement and the growth of the church throughout the ages:

  • John Mark went on to work with the apostle Peter and heard Peter’s first-hand account of his life with Jesus (Acts 12:12-13; I Peter 5:13).
  • John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark, based largely on Peter’s first-hand account of the life and death of Jesus, but also on his own personal experience with Jesus. Many scholars believe that John Mark was present with Jesus in Gethsemane and was the young man who ran away naked after the mob ripped off his nightshirt when they came to arrest Jesus (Mark 14:51-52).
  • John Mark later proved invaluable to Paul as his assistant and companion in ministry, especially during Paul’s prison confinements (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon1:24).

Had Barnabas not given John Mark a second chance, the Gospel of Mark might not have been written, neither might the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, for they based much of their material on Mark’s Gospel.

How different the New Testament and Christianity might be today without those three gospels—for countless millions of believers might not have come to faith in Jesus Christ throughout these two thousand years!

As we reflect on the Acts account of Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark, it’s important to ask ourselves:

  • Are there John Marks in our lives—boys and girls, and young men and women—who have failed and disappointed us?
  • Can you and I be a Barnabas to them? Are we willing to encourage and mentor them despite their previous failures?

Giving them additional chances—along with our mentoring and encouragement—could change their lives completely.

And, like John Mark, the lives and contributions of these young people could impact our society and world in significant ways in years to come.

You and I might be the difference between a young life failing or succeeding, so let’s not give up on them.

Remember, we have been the beneficiaries of second chances—the most important one being the grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.

So, be a Barnabas and ”encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV, ©1984).

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