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Change Ron DeBoer 6/5/2013
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NLT).
It must have felt weird to Paul’s audience to read the words of 1 Corinthians 13. Wasn’t this the same guy who terrorized Christians not that long ago? And now all this talk about love. Was this guy for real?
Contrast this verse with the opening verse of Acts 9: “Meanwhile, Saul [Paul’s earlier name] was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers” (NLT)
Acts 9:1 doesn’t just describe someone who doesn’t love. That’s someone who hates.
God’s wisdom in choosing Saul to advance the church is nothing less than remarkable. And it’s a good thing he worked alone in the decision-making. Can you imagine if the decision had been made by Jesus while he was still on earth? Try to picture him convincing the disciples that he was going to choose a Christian killer to become the most influential person—next to Jesus—in advancing Christianity.
Cue the awkward silence. Peter might have been the first to speak. “You mean this influential person you talk about isn’t one of us?”
No, God’s choice of Saul couldn’t possibly have been comprehensible to mere humans. So God did something dramatic. As Saul was on his way to unleash more terror, God struck him blind and gave him specific instructions about what to do next.
God took full and immediate control of Saul’s life. Saul didn’t even fight back. I wonder if he knew he was a chosen one. Saul’s complete 180 is amazing. We read in Acts 9:20 that after spending some time with Christ-followers for just a few days, Saul “immediately . . . began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God’” (NLT)!
Of course, not everyone was prepared to believe that Saul had really become a believer. I’m sure they thought he was executing an elaborate lie to gain the trust of Christians before striking out against them. But over time, as the church began to grow, more and more believers trusted the words he was preaching as the Holy Spirit descended on them.
Saul the Christian killer’s transformation into Paul the believer, who was a catalyst for the Christian church, should teach us that anything is possible with God. If he can change the heart of Saul, imagine what he can do with you, me, or those we influence! No matter what you’ve done or how badly you feel your life has gone up to this point, God can and will use you. He already is, in ways you don’t even know. We know this because he is in control of the entire universe. Even the hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:30)!
Perhaps you have a conversion story of your own to tell. Maybe you’re waiting for God’s intervention. You can start by praying this prayer to God right now: “God, I don’t know what you want me to do in this life. So far I have lived for myself. Please use me wherever you please, and let your Holy Spirit fill me and guide me in my life.”
Jesus says in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven” (NLT).
Jesus transformed Saul. Will you let him transform you too?
Ron DeBoer is a writer living near Toronto.
“Using the New Living Translation in sermon preparation helps to generate ‘aha’s! from the congregation. Where there may be obscurity, it can help turn the light on in the hearts and minds of listeners.”
Arthur Jackson Judson Baptist Church Oak Park, Illinois