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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 2

Acts 9:3, “And as he journeyed he came near Damascus and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.”
There is no such thing as an insignificant scripture. Since the Bible in its entirety is divinely inspired, every verse, every line, every word has a lesson to teach, a message to relay, an encouragement, exhortation, or warning to pass on to the diligently faithful among God’s children. Some lessons are found on the surface, while others must be pondered and sought out, like precious stones beneath the firmament.
In the depth of his heart, Saul’s desire was sincere and true. He believed with all his might that what he was doing was in fact the right thing to do, the only thing to do, considering those who followed Christ merely another heretical movement that threatened his beloved faith. If one truly desires truth, if one truly desires light, they will not be left in darkness or ignorance. Here was a man who had furiously, viciously, and violently persecuted the Christians out of sheer ignorance, but his ignorance would soon come to an end.
Saul left Jerusalem journeying toward Damascus, accompanied by a guard, who would aid him in fulfilling his plan and the Sanhedrin’s will. It is close to a one hundred and twenty mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus, and in those days it would have taken a good five days of travel to go from one place to the other. Saul had his plan, but God had His plan as well. Sometimes our plans, and God’s plans conflict with one another, for it is often the case that our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. When such a situation arises, all we can do is submit, fall to our knees, and bend to the will of the heavenly Father.
I am certain that as would be the case with any man on a mission, throughout his journey toward Damascus Saul made plans and plotted, thinking of ways by which he could more readily subdue the followers of Christ, arrest them and have them brought back to Jerusalem. By the same token, Christ was also beginning to implement His plan, by which he could subdue Saul and bind him in the chains of His love, thereby making him a vessel, worthy of being entrusted with His light, wisdom and power.
Saul’s life had come to a crossroads. He had reached the peak of his darkened state, and this was the time when God would step in and intervene. In this we can see, and be encouraged by the fact that God is never late. He knows exactly when, and how to intervene, never allowing the lions to tear us asunder, but shutting up their mouths before they have a chance to do us harm.
By Paul’s recollection in other scripture, we are told that it was about noon, when suddenly a great light from heaven shone around him. This light was no mere reflection, or a chance occurrence wherein the clouds parted, but one that shone brighter than the sun, a light originating from God, more powerful than the stars in the heavens.
When the light of His love shines down upon us, the darkness must flee, for it has no choice in the matter. Only the light of God can free man from the darkness of sin, and only the blood of Christ can wash him, cleanse him, and make him whole. One encounter, would forever change the life of Saul, one glimpse of the light would set him on a new course, a course that was in diametrical opposition to his former life. The most feared among the brethren, the persecutor who knew no mercy, would become the greatest among the brethren, one who would devote the rest of his life to compelling all who would hear to reach out and embrace the love that is Christ Jesus.
Acts 9:4, “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
There comes a time in every man’s life when every preconceived notion concerning himself, is irrevocably shattered. No matter how strong, authoritative, or courageous Saul thought himself to be, he could not stand in the presence of the light that shone from heaven, and fell to the ground. It is often the case that before God can raise us up, we must first be brought low, that the true measure of our impotence be made clear to us. An old parable says that the man who trusts in himself trusts in a fool, and before we can be of service to God, we must learn the painful lesson that trusting in ourselves is a sure road to ruin. By striping us of our pride, by stripping us of our ego, by causing us to fall to the ground, God is attempting to teach us reliance in him rather than ourselves, and trust in His strength rather than our own.
I realize this may sound strange, even obvious, but a man cannot fall upward. Whenever a man falls, he always falls to the ground, to the things of this earth, to the sins of vices of his former life, with one significant exception. When we fall before the feet of Christ, when we kneel before Him and surrender, submit, and yield ourselves, it is the only time when we can actually fall upward. Such was Saul’s fall to the ground, for he fell before the love of Christ. When we fall in such a way, when we fall upward for lack of better terminology, we hear the voice of truth, we hear Christ. If we have fallen to the ground, yet still fail to hear the voice of Christ, then we have not truly fallen at the foot of the cross, we have not subjugated or surrendered the self. Only when we fall to the ground, and do away with ourselves, when we separate ourselves from the flesh that once ruled us, and the pride that once fueled us, are we prepared to hear the heavenly voice, the voice of truth.
This is the reason that falls are sometimes necessary for those who have strayed so far from the light of truth that they are no longer able to hear the voice of God. When one journeys unhindered, he or she is unconcerned with taking the time to listen for the voice, so sure in and of themselves that it takes an event such as seeing a light, and falling to the ground, to get their attention, to cause them to stop in their tracks and acknowledge the error of their ways.
Although in subsequent verses we will delve deeper into the mystery that is the body of Christ, the words the voice spoke puts into context the way God views the persecution of His beloved. The voice did not say, ‘why are you persecuting the Christians? It did not ask why Saul was persecuting or those of the way, but asked why are you persecuting Me?
Amidst the persecution Saul had unleashed, the first to suffer was Christ Jesus, the Head of His Church. When the body of Christ is persecuted, He is also persecuted because He is one with us.
One of the great mysteries of God, revealed to us in His holy Word, is that of the body of Christ here on earth, the fellowship of the redeemed, who by faith in the saving sacrifice made on the cross, binds us together and makes us one.
This fellowship of the redeemed, is called by many names throughout the Word, be it little flock, a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, His own special people, a holy nation, the bride, but none more clearly shows the unity between the redeemed and their Redeemer, than the title of body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
These words penned by the great apostle, was the first truth that Christ revealed to him on that road to Damascus, namely the unity and cohesion of Christ, and His faithful. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
This is a fundamental truth, and one that cannot be glossed over. Christ, is one with the body. Those who persecute the followers of Christ are in essence persecuting the person of Christ. The attitude we have toward the redeemed is by the same token the attitude we have toward Christ himself.
I heard it said once, that we often persecute the Savior, by striking out at the smallest and weakest of His disciples. We show anger toward the Redeemer, by showing anger toward His followers, and every time we judge the weak among God’s house, we are judging Jesus. In light of this wisdom, may we pursue justice, tempered with mercy and love.
So tight is the bond between Christ, the Lord of glory, and His suffering here on earth, that whatever we might suffer, he also suffers. He feels our pain, and knows our struggle. Even if we are only sinners saved by the grace of God, we are precious in the sight of the Lord, for we are the fruit of His sacrifice. Hence the reason for His protection, His grace, His carrying us when our strength has been exhausted, and His infusing us with strength when trials and tribulations befall us.
For Saul the persecutor, the heavenly voice was as a two edged sword. Pierced by the voice and the light he fell to the ground where his only choice was to submit and surrender to the One he had been persecuting. A heavenly mercy and compassion descended upon him, and the persecutor becomes the greatest witness and declarer of Christ the world has ever seen.
Laying on the ground Saul shook, not only due to the brightness of the light, or the authority of the voice, but also due to the gravity of the words he heard coming from heaven. Him, Saul, accused of persecution? No, that was not possible; all he was doing was defending tradition, fighting for the beliefs of old. Yet the accusation was too precise, too direct, and there was no mincing of words.
The root of persecution against the followers of Christ has most often been the defense of tradition, or a different religious system. The body of Christ however, persecutes no one. Truth is never the persecutor, and it prepares neither sword nor prison cells.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael,
Thank you!!!!! Wonderful writing, you help me so much with my walk with Jesus. I have read about the life of Paul in bible class, but somehow you make the stories come to life!!! I can't thank you enough!!!

A friend in Christ,
Sue K.

Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT!!!

I want to thank you brother for making this blog available and for your ministry to the Body of Christ.

I realize that I am only one of many out there that are still standing, by His grace, for Truth. And its just so encouraging to know there is a greater Body of Christ out there that are also experiencing the same "STORM" and difficulties....just knowing youre not alone.

What a blessing and so timely has your messages been to this wounded and battered soldier.

I pray for continued strength in battle for the entire Body of Christ....

Faithful is He who has called us, who will also keep us!
GRACE!!! GRACE!!! GRACE!!!
It will be HIS GRACE that will lead us home!

Much love in Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Faithful Friend!

amy said...

Amen Michael. I believe this is what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians about eating the bread and drinking the cup of Messiah in an unworthy manner; i.e. not discerning His Body. Not discerning that how they were treating each other (barging ahead and seeking recognition, trampling on the weaker ones, not considering the needs of others but only their own, etc.), was actually how they were treating Jesus.

Anonymous said...

i know of a vision once given about the love of christ-where it was shown as a very deep well, the children of god were merrily swimming on the surface of this well not only enjoying the benefits of the refreshing well but the light and air of the world above. for many it was the only existence they knew and enjoyed, yet from deep within the well came a mysterious attraction and some dived deeper and deeper not satisfied with what the surface could offer. only a handful after exhausting all their means and finally succumbing to depths of this well, literally drowning, did they discover a life lost in the depths totally oblivious to those who chose to remain within reach of the surface.

in saul, as you put it nicely-he had to die in order to fall upwards. it took 3 days of darkness to deconstruct what maybe 25-30 years of religious training had built. what emotions he must of went through to realize everything he had pinned his hopes on was a sham. in those first moments he experienced a love that would take many years to congeal his thoughts that would finally enable him to pen what we know as his letters today. perhaps it is prudent to consider that in his zeal he must immediately share this earth shattering experience, and yet it would be maybe 17 years of "swimming" before he comes out equipped, ready to fulfill the commission placed upon him in his younger years.
paul is living proof that as a christian matures he should not live a life of diminishing returns, but should see his last years even more fruitful then the days of his youth. --p.g.--

Anonymous said...

Amen, totally awesome, thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Brother Michael,

Thank you for your teachings.
I wanted to encourage you that there are others standing in the pulpit preaching truth, few, yes, but Thank God they all haven't bowed to this evil that has taken so many. Here is the Link to Times Square Church, maybe you have it already...but wanted you to know that the series that Brother Carter Conlon on the Corinthian Problem , and the life of Paul goes along with your teachings.
1. The Church that Loses it's Calling
2. The Preaching of the Cross
3. Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out
4. From Captive to Captain
5. Grinding in the Prison House
6. The Tabernacle of David
7. My Preaching is Good for Nothing
http://www.tscnyc.org/

God Bless you and your family!
Your Sister in Jesus

KevinP said...

"Those who persecute the followers of Christ are in essence persecuting the person of Christ."

I didnt even see this deep meaning in Acts 9:4

The spirit of Christ dwelled in Stephen, and had Christ like attributes. Obviously they stoned Stephen, but also Christ in essence?

One can ponder this verse for a very long time.

God Bless,

KevinP

kprz1337@yahoo.com

deannaslater said...

How great and merciful is Our Lord, he will never stop calling to us, wooing us, leading and guiding us, even in sin, he wants nothing more then for us to be with him in the Kingdom. Dear Christens, there is a bed made up for the Christian in hell that is living in sin, fornication, adultery, covetousness , drunkenness, God will call to us, and continue until are last breath, but the Lord says, if you die in your sin, then you will not enter into my kingdom, time is truly running out, no more can you have sin and God to, you must stop all now and live holy and obedient, tithe to this ministry, it is bringing the gospel forth in a powerful way, you must not hold back your tithe, pay your debts, and forgive those who owe you, forgive those who have used you and said every evil manner against you, cheat no more, even the smallest morsel, stay in prayer, stay in the word,with thanksgiving give him praise continually in your heart. not all of us are called into a great ministry as Paul, but God will still do whatever takes to get our attention to be upon him and him alone.

a seed sower said...

This kinda sums it all up to bro Michael, it is so easy for the flesh once given certain gifts of the spirit to entertain an air of superiority, when the gifts are intended for God's Glory not our own, neither are they to make us superior to another..Amen..

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity (the true love of God working in the believer)suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come,(when Jesus returns once again to this earth) then that which is in part shall be done away.

And then we shall be known as we are now known of God all things shall be revealed, even the hidden things...Let us continue to exhort oneanother as we see the day approaching, let us bear with oneanother and judge righteously, lest any of us be found wanting in the day...Amen..God Bless you Brother Michael..God bless all the saints..