Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Road to Damascus

Galatians 1:11-13 - But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.

It's been awhile since I wrote about Paul, once known as Saul, who persecuted Christianity and imprisoned many because of his hatred towards it and those who followed Christ. Many people have Damascus Road experiences. Some great, some not...but both kinds life-changing. Either way, the revelation of Christ occurred. 

Saul was on his way to Damascus one day to persecute Christians some more. The Lord intervened, the light of His presence blinding Saul for a time, and confronted him: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? ... It is hard for you to kick against the goads." (Acts 9) Saul fell immediately to the ground, frightened. This was the revelation he received from Jesus Christ! He appeared to him. 

This so shows that even the most hardened, stubborn, proud and arrogant person can be touched by the presence of God. Acts 9 explains the entire account. Within the verses there is one little word that amazes me. In verse 11: So the Lord said to him [Ananias], "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judah for one called Saul of Tarsus..." 

Two things pop into my head. The street name was Straight.  Straight; good, well; bow, kneel, give, set forth, settle. Webster describes it as: going an undeviated direction, properly ordered, without extraneous matter. Isn't that what happened to Saul? And doesn't that pretty much sound narrow? It is settled we will change, we will give ourselves into the act of bowing to Christ. Saul saw the light of Christ and fell to his knees. In just a moment he he submitted. Sometimes we can be in a situation where we might be scared straight, like Saul, that he changed his attitude drastically. 

I find it interesting that we are told to walk the straight and narrow road to life, through Jesus. Bear with me. Point number two is Christ is our strait gate. In the King James Version: Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat... (Matthew 7:13) Strait in this context means narrow and one root word is to abide, establish, present; and another root word means the same as straight, to settle, set forth. Webster's strait means narrow, constricted, tight, difficult

Straight or strait...a choice we make when confronted with the truth. Have we been confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ? Has He shone His light in our lives, opened our eyes to see His truth, caused us to bow before Him, like Saul, and turned our walk to a good, settled, undeviated direction, oftentimes difficult and seemingly narrow?

Following Christ is considered narrow by many. Either it's narrow by design, we choose to do it; or it's narrow as in narrow-minded, not a desired place to be, too many constraints, by those not willing to follow. 

Yes, it's a narrow, difficult road we travel when we choose Christ. And Saul, who eventually became the Apostle Paul, turned from his evil ways and followed hard after Jesus. He totally humbled himself and bowed before God. He suffered his own persecution. It is believed he was martyred.

I believe in the days ahead we will see more demands for Christianity to be silenced. The world will become more intolerant. These are both exciting and disturbing days. Exciting because the Bible tells us that this will happen in the last days. Disturbing because we will see many continue to scoff at the truth. It's sad to see Christ denied by so many when all God wants is for all to receive life.

Paul, as well as every person who truly has been born again, as Jesus says we should, had an encounter with Christ, that Damascus Road experience. While ours might not be on a road, it might be in prison, in a difficult situation, a dream or through illness or addiction. He does try to get everyone's attention. It's a shame we sometimes have to undergo a difficulty to receive Christ. However, like Saul, it was life changing. 

As Saul, he stopped kicking against the goads! Jesus would have used the word goad in this context which means: a spiked stick used for driving cattle. The more resistance, the more goading. Saul stopped resisting the truth of Jesus Christ. It's good to know, however, that Jesus keeps on calling those who continue to kick.

Saul changed. Saul became Paul. He went from persecuting Christians to preaching the Gospel. He went from believing a lie to preaching the truth. He was guided by the devil and then led by Christ. He went from death to life. Hallelujah. This can happen to anyone. If it can happen to the worst of the worse, it can happen to anyone!

Paul said these words below. Once he knew the truth, where it would take him, the end results, he remained steadfast. A lesson for all of us who believe.

2Timothy 4:7-8 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

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