“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” Galatians 2:20-21
Paul, initially known as Saul of Tarsus, has the ideal pedigree as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to reach both Jewish and Roman audiences.
He is a “Hebrew born of Hebrews,” a Pharisee, and one who has advanced in Judaism well beyond many of his peers. Saul has influence, authority, and education. Yet, even though he has studied the Hebrew law and knew ancient prophecy, I find it ironic that he (as Saul) makes no real impact on the kingdom of God. He does everything correct from an outsiders view, but internally he is clueless.
Saul didn’t know God, he just knew of God. And it’s no secret that God isn’t impressed with his ritualistic tendencies, which includes his persecution of thousands of newly-converted Christians who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. As human beings, we place such an emphasis on performance (doing what’s externally acceptable by religious law) that we forfeit the true motive behind following Christ (which is to be in a loving relationship with Him). Instead, if our hearts first seek to love Him, then all the external actions will follow suite.
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. ” Galatians 5:4-6
One remarkable display of God’s sovereignty is shown when Saul has his dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus. God removes Saul’s physical ability to see, so He could in fact truly see – with the spiritual eyes of God. For three days Saul dies to his flesh, literally as a blind man. But after those three days, Saul is resurrected as a new creation and given the name Paul. Just as Christ is resurrected after three days. Profound parallel between the two.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
In order to see Christ for who He truly is, Saul needs to die to himself, just like we do. Often we see Jesus through our own lens, distorted from life’s accumulated trials and disappointments, disabling us from having the eyes of faith to see Jesus for who He truly is – A Faithful Provider, Redeemer, and Savior of all mankind.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19
I find it ironic that once Paul is stripped of every inkling of his earthly influence and authority (after becoming an ambassador for the very one he initially hated – Jesus), he is given an authority that exceeds his qualifications. God Himself appoints Paul as the author for over half of the New Testament in His holy Word. Talk about an honor. To me, this is mind-blowing: starting as the most influential and powerful leader in the religious community, he initially doesn’t even make a dent in impacting nations for Christ.
Then, once he lays everything down and chooses to fully follow Jesus Christ (even being willing to partake in Christ’s sufferings) God Himself gives Paul more authority than he could have ever imagined. I am sure people look at him as a complete loser. He leaves his prominent position in the world, to follow after someone that many rejected. He forsakes the approval of man, and dives in for the approval of Christ. Isn’t this the same for many of us?
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
People thought I was a nut case when I resigned from my position at the bank. I had left a robust income and an executive title on the table, for what? To follow Jesus to the shores of Western Australia and serve as a missionary? But, I’m not living my life for man; I’m living it for Christ. Even today, people still wonder what in the world I am doing with my life. Indirectly questioning why I don’t return back to the bank, make more money, and pursue the American dream. I’ve had it all before, and it just wasn’t fulfilling.
But, once I tasted a life fully surrendered to Jesus, I just couldn’t go back. As King David proclaimed in Psalms 34:8 stating “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. ” Life becomes an adventure to experience with Jesus every single day.
What about you? How is God moving in your life?
“Those who know your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. ” Psalm 9:10
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