Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christ in Me

Galatians 1:13,15 - For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles...

One of the most impressive stories for me in the Bible is about the Apostle Paul. He proves that God can totally bring about tremendous change in ANYONE, if one is willing to let God to do this. It is comforting to know we have a God this powerful.

Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He was a Jew, a Pharisee, one well versed in Jewish laws and hated anyone whose beliefs opposed his, the Jewish beliefs. So he persecuted these Christ believers.

My how he was transformed on the road to Damascus. He met God, who blinded and troubled him; yet Paul knew without a doubt what had happened was real and he submitted to the hand of God. It became known to him he had been wrong and had done his religious understanding of the Jewish laws, his idea of who Jesus was and in his treatment of Christ believers.

God changed Paul's purpose in life from persecution to expounding on the truth of Christ. He was sent by God to preach what he had been so sure was false. He could no longer speak against Jesus. In fact, here are a number of things he said about himself:
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God... (Romans 1:1)
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God... (1Corinthians 1:1)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God...(2Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope...(ITimothy 1:1)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus...(2Timothy 1:1)
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ...(Philippians 1:12, 13)

You see, after he changed so dramatically, he could no longer live in his old manner because of the grace of God. His life was now in Christ and he gave all glory to Him. Look at the key words: called, separated, by the will of God, by the commandment, in Christ. While we are not all called in as great a manner as Paul, if we are believers in Christ, having come face to face with Him in some way, we will have changed also (a continual process) and we are to be disciples and called to preach the Gospel and its truth. In order to do that we must first know Who the Truth is. Paul shared the truth and confronted the lies with the people in Galatia, who he found out had turned away from what they first believed to another gospel after Christ had first been revealed to them.  I find it hard to understand how once the truth was/is heard one would turn away from it...but it did happen and still does.

I noticed a couple times Paul uses the word revelation. One, his encounter with the Lord was an extreme type of revelation. God so intensely revealed Himself to Paul. Then he says that the words he spoke and places he went were by revelation. He took no credit for where he went or what he said. Paul asked, Do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? His message was not self serving. He did not speak hoping to please God but to persuade men to seek God, not with words that would satisfy them but would cause them, like he, to turn to God. He spoke the truth of God that resided within him and which he was now convinced was real. And he further stated, if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

What, a bondservant? Oh my. Does that make one shudder? If one knows Christ he also knows it is not slavery, it is having freedom in Christ, one which he wanted others to receive. How can I say this in a way that causes one to see that being in Christ is good, not evil? In Christ is protection from evil...not that we aren't tempted by evil, but that when we are, we can put our trust in one greater than all evil.

I wonder how many people really think about this, really consider what being in Christ is all about? It's not about being Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic or any other mainstream religion. It's about being in Christ. If this isn't the message being preached in churches, it is another gospel. All of life is about the Lord. He created, He draws men to Him, He saves, He redeems, He purifies, He sanctifies...He, He, He. He is as much alive today as He was when He walked on this earth. Oh, that people would see Him, not religion.

Like Paul later states, it pleased God to call him out of his former lifestyle through His grace to reveal Christ to him that he might preach the gospel. It pleased God. Pleased. After he persecuted? I looked up the word pleased in a Bible concordance: well content, chosen gladly, good, preferred, thought it best, took pleasure. Who can understand the mind of God that He would be pleased to use the vilest of men? And that's what He did and does. Because who gets the glory?

If Paul was called specifically to preach to those he formerly persecuted, imagine the difficulty, and the amount of persuasion it took, his own form of persecution, to preach now a different story. Paul said: But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:23-24)

Paul was dramatically transformed. His life was no longer his own. God gave him grace and used him in a great way. He now lived for God. This is what He calls us to do. How well are we all doing? Do we realize, like Paul, a difference? It's not about the rules and regulations of any religion...remember he was a Pharisee, well versed in the law...but about the total grace of God, a grace that came from God being pleased to use Paul...for His glory. Christ in... Here's one more thing Paul says about himself. Can we relate?

Galatians 2:20-21 - I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in in vain.

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