Jesus is in the business of transforming lives; it’s kinda what He does! When I think of biblical examples of transformed lives, one person in particular comes to mind. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any greater transformation than what took place in the life of Paul, also known as Saul.
Saul was an Israelite; he was not only part of God’s chosen nation, he was from the tribe of Benjamin and had been circumcised when he was eight days old. He grew up to become a Pharisee, living in strict obedience to every detail of the Jewish law, and demanding the same of others. He was zealous in His faith, so when the church started to grow he did everything in his power to destroy it. (Philippians 3:5-6)
Saul was present when Stephen was killed and he fully approved of his death (Acts 8:1). He then traveled the area, literally dragging followers of Christ out of their homes, men and women both, and throwing them in prison. His intention was to destroy the church (Acts 8:3). Scripture tells us that “Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers (Acts 9:1, NLT).”
I can’t help but think that Saul thought he was all that and a bag of chips. People probably admired him, feared him, and/or wanted to be him. But then, one day, everything changed. Saul encountered Jesus in the most dramatic fashion.
He was on his way to Damascus, with permission from the High Priest to gather up any followers of Jesus he could find and deliver them to Jerusalem in chains (Acts 9:2). As he neared the city, a bright light appeared and Saul heard the voice of Jesus asking why he was persecuting Him. He was told to go into the city and await instruction. The light vanished and with it, Saul’s sight. He was blind. (Acts 9:3-8)
He remained blind for three days until Ananias, a brave follower of Jesus, obeyed the Lord’s command to go and lay hands on Saul so that he could regain his sight. When he did, scales fell from Saul’s eyes, he was baptized, and he immediately began preaching about Jesus. (Acts 9:9-20)
Wow, what a transformation! So, what really happened? What changed? Yes, there was a dramatic vision, but the real work happened in Saul’s heart. He encountered Jesus and He decided to follow Him. That was the real dramatic encounter, and it’s something we can each experience for ourselves.
We can go about our lives saying all the right things. We can be zealous in our faith by doing all the right things, but heart transformation isn’t about what we say or do, it’s about what Christ has done. True change and growth only happen when we encounter Jesus and decide to follow Him. We can read Paul’s own revelation about this truth in Philippians 3:8-9.
I once thought these things [heritage, zeal, and persecution of the church] were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith. [Note and emphasis mine.]
But really, what could we ever do that would be enough? God’s standards are so high that we could never meet them, not in a million years. But God knows this, and that’s why He sent His Son, Jesus. Through Christ, and our unity with Him, we’re reconciled to God. We’re loved, accepted, given new life, and are heirs with Christ.
When we encounter Jesus and decided to place our faith in Him, we instantly become royalty, a son or daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s why Jesus came. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).”
Do you believe, not just that God exists, but believe in Him? Have you placed your faith in Jesus and decided to follow Him? If so, rejoice in your unity with Him and remind yourself that life isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you know!
If not, you can do so right now. Pray with me, “Jesus, today I have encountered You and I believe in You. You’ve opened my eyes and my heart and I choose to place my faith in You and follow You all of my days. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me, loving me, and being my life. Continue to reveal Yourself to me as I follow You. I love you, Jesus! Amen.
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was!
He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”
– Paul, 1 Timothy 1:14