Friday, December 07, 2018

From Antagonist to Apostle

Today's Reading:
Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20
Acts 7:51-8:13
Psalm 54:1-7
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Focus Verses: Acts 7:59 - 8:3
7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.


As Stephen was martyred for his faith in Christ Jesus, a man named Saul was in the crowd giving his full approval. The event sparked the beginning of an intense campaign of persecution against Christians, and Saul became a zealous champion of a crusade to destroy the heretical movement he believed Christianity to be.

What a shocking beginning to the story of the Apostle Paul! He began as a passionate antagonist intent on obliterating Christianity from the earth, but he became the passionate missionary devoted to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. He began as an angry man who approved of killing those who believed in Jesus, but he became a gracious man willing to lay down his life for Christ.

Saul was a self-righteous Pharisee, but Paul became a humble pastor who saw himself as “chief of sinners.” The enemy of the church, Saul, doesn't speak a word in Acts 8, but he became the great Apostle who wrote much of the New Testament—committing his life to establishing, expanding, and edifying the church. Saul, who stopped and silenced Stephen, would become Paul who mentored and inspired young men like Timothy and Titus to become Christian leaders.

Response and Action:
Dramatic change is possible with Jesus. Passionate opponents of Christianity can become enthusiastic advocates of Jesus. I need to remember that Jesus and transformation go hand in hand.

It is impossible for me to know just how God may be using what seems to be loss and defeat in order to accomplish gain and victory. Stephen's faith and boldness in the face of death may have been the very thing that inspired the Apostle Paul to later write: "Whether by life or by death, may Christ be exalted in my body."

I will ask God to use and change me as I follow Christ. I will pray for those who oppose Christ, believing that they could by God's grace become wholehearted ambassadors for Christ.

O God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help me to turn away from what is false and to love what is true. Help me to turn away from confidence in self and, instead, turn to you with a humble recognition of my need and my sin. By the power of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name.   Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses:
 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions
by Albert Haase

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