Study from God’s Word… Acts, Chapters 8 & 9, Luke writing of the entrance of Saul, who became the Apostle Paul … Passage for Reflection: Acts 9: 3 – 4 … NIV 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
My Journal for Today: The description of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 has wrought an descriptive phrase in both Christian and secular expression, which we know of as “the Damascus road experience.” It refers to someone having a radical transformation of character, generally from something evil or malevolent to one who is obviously good for the world in some way. And for most Christians it means going, radically and dramatically, from sinner to saint.
I had one of those “Damascus road experiences” on April 13, 1983; and it would take too long to write about it here; but the experience and my sense of brokenness and change that day led me from being a self-absorbed, sin-driven atheist to what I’ve become, … an Elder in my church and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. My wife says that I went from a selfish sex addict to a compulsive Savior addict. She likes the latter better! ;>)
Only God could have wrought such a radical transformation. So, when I read about Saul becoming Paul, I have great empathy and understanding for the life transforming story of this persecutor of Christians who became the powerful protector of the Gospel of Christ.
But perhaps you have not had a “Damascus Road Experience;” and maybe you wonder if it takes such an experience to move from sinner to saint and become a born-again believer … a true Christian in every sense of your being. But, my friend, I hope you realize that it doesn’t take a vision of The Christ or some blindness to seeing episode in your life to be a transformed and born-again Christian. No, you may be one whose transformation began early in your life and you were much more slowly and steadily re-shaped to conform to Christ’s image.
My Pastor, in the church where we served as co-Elders, truly believes he was “saved” when he was five years old; and his growth in faith was slow and had some radical ups-and-downs. But in his case, and maybe yours, there was a transformation and maturing of the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23), which has led to fruitfulness in his called ministry.
But you may ask, “Well, does one have to be transformed into a Minister, an Elder, a Missionary or be called to lead some Christian ministry to see the transformation of conversion and growth in Christian discipleship?” And the answer to that one is also a resounding “NO!” What it takes was described in a powerful biblical nutshell by the same Saul, who became Paul, in Romans 12: 1 – 2; and let me embolden that passage in italics for you – though I hope you know it from memory:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
One, like me who is wordy, could write or teach on that passage for weeks; and some have. But it all boils down to being transformed into a state of mind, as a Christian, of “living sacrifice;” and doing all we can intentionally to allow God to reshape us into His image, avoiding being transformed into the world’s image. If you have done that, …no matter how dramatically or slowly it has taken you, you are becoming the Christian God intends for you to be. It is the completion process Paul also wrote about in Philippians 1: 6, where God authored, … He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
But if you’re reading this and have doubts about your salvation or the conversion/transformation from non-Christian to one who is truly born-again, go read and study the letter from another great Apostle in the epistle we know of as 1st John. That whole letter was written to Christians to help them KNOW, beyond any doubt, that they are saved and “born-again” as Christians [see the purpose statement of the letter from John to the church in 1st John 5: 13 - linked here. Studying that letter will help you seal your status as a Christian and you can move on to be reshaped in Christ’s image.
My Prayer for Today: Lord, make over – completely – into Your image. Amen