READING: Acts 9-10
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: Everyone told me he would never come to church. In fact, they said every other preacher and evangelist who had been in their little city over the previous decades had witnessed to him, but to no avail. He was still “one of the meanest guys you’ll ever meet.” Well, I did meet him — and he only confirmed his reputation.
Then he showed up in church one day. And then another day. And another. And, to everyone’s great surprise, he eventually followed the Spirit’s leading and gave his life to Christ. Those who knew him best watched him with skepticism, but the gospel truly transformed him. He became a trophy of God’s grace. The change in this man’s attitude (and then his reputation) seemed almost unexplainable.
Compare his story to the story of Saul. Ananias was surely uncertain about speaking to Saul, even when God told him to do so, because of Saul’s reputation: “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name” (Acts 9:13-14). My guess is that you and I would have been equally anxious.
However, Saul would be undeniably changed by the gospel: Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.” But all who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man who, in Jerusalem, was destroying those who called on this name and then came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?” (Acts 9:20-21). The persecutor became the preacher; the murdered would eventually become the martyr. Everything changed when Saul met Jesus.
How many people do we know whose testimony could include the words, “Isn’t this the man who xxxxxxxx,” where the blank might be filled in with any kind of sin issue? How many people do we know who used to be God’s opponents, but who now are exhibits of His amazing transforming power?
“Used to be” — that’s the point. "Isn’t he the man who used to . . .?"
Under God’s saving grace, who we used to be is not who we are now.
ACTION STEPS: Tell somebody your Christian story today, emphasizing who you were then and who you are now because of God’s undeserved intervention.
PRAYER: “God, Your grace is amazing. Let those words be more than an old hymn to me today; let them be the deeply-felt praise of a transformed heart.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Acts 11-12