Monday, April 28, 2008

Saul of Tarsus Part 3

It's cold again, and it has been raining on and off for the past few days. I have not forgotten about this web log, it's just that every time I sit down to write a few thoughts, something always comes up, a phone call, a radio interview, and at the end of the day, I always regret not being being able to squeeze in at least a few words. We have been doing a study on the conversion of Saul, better known to all as Apostle Paul, and I have been getting fed spiritually as much if not more than some of you by penning these few thoughts concerning this mighty man of God and his experience. I realize I am not one of those bloggers who answers every comment individually, but I do appreciate your feedback and encouragements, as well as your prayers for myself, my family and this ministry. So, to all of you who have commented, thank you. To those of you who just read but don't leave a comment, God bless, and I hope you come away with a greater understanding of the love, mercy, greatness and beauty of God, our Lord Jesus, and the faith.
Acts 9:5, “And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Long ago in the country of my birth, I was witness to an interaction between my mother and brother Sergio. Sergio was only five years old, still discovering the world around him, when the neighbor’s cat ended up in our yard. It was not a house cat; it was dirty, mangy, and most likely heavy with fleas, mud covering its head and tail, and after a prolonged chase through the yard my brother managed to catch it. With pride in his eyes and a smile on his face, my brother brought the cat into the house, hugging it tightly to his chest, and said, ‘look momma I got you a present.’
When my mother saw the cat, she put her hand over her heart, and sternly said to my brother, ‘take it outside and don’t you dare come into the house with that cat again.’
Sergio looked up at my mother, and still smiling asked, ‘if I bring it back in, will I get a spanking?’
‘Don’t ask questions to which you don’t want the answer,’ my mother answered, taking Sergio by the shoulder and ushering him outside.
I still remember the incident after all these years, because of my mother’s answer to my brother’s question. If you are unprepared for the answer, do not ask the question. It was obvious that if he disobeyed, he would get a spanking, it was the rule of the house, and between my mother and grandmother there wasn’t much we three boys were able to get away with.
Paul asked ‘who are you Lord?’ because he wanted an answer. He was not being coy, of facetious; the desire of his heart was to know the source of the light and the voice that was speaking to him.
Questions that arise from a sincere heart are of great importance to the spiritual growth of many Christians. The revelation of truth, and knowledge thereof is dependent on the questions we ask and the answers we are willing to receive and accept, and since life is dependent upon the knowledge of truth, it is neither wrong or a sin to ask questions when we are uncertain, but rather a practice to be encouraged in those whose query is birthed in sincerity.
While Saul found himself laying on the ground, unable to answer the question as to why he was persecuting the person behind the voice he was hearing, he in turn asked a question of his own: ‘Who are you Lord?’
Saul’s question is the question of a soul that has been overthrown from its perch upon the throne of pride, a soul that has been converted, for only such a soul is able to recognize that Jesus is Lord. If we analyze Saul’s words carefully we come to the conclusion, that indeed even before the voice answered his query Saul recognized the authority, and divinity of its owner, by not merely asking who are you, but asking who are you Lord?
Sincere questions, will always receive simple and clear answers. Christ reveals himself to those whom with sincerity seek to know the truth of Him, even if they were once His sworn enemies. Sins committed in ignorance forgiven, if they are repented of once the light breaks through the fog of doubt, and unbelief.
Once Saul asked his question, his answer came speedily. ‘I am Jesus.’ Such a simple answer yet so profound. The world today is on a never-ending quest to complicate the answers, even to the simplest of questions. Even the church is not without its culpability in this matter, filling endless pages with irrelevant absurdities, when one word would suffice, ‘repent.’ We have programs, and steps, classes and symposiums, workshops and marathon weekend conferences, seminars and conventions, all producing little to no tangible fruit in the lives of those who shell out their money, sit in the seats, and listen to what amounts to a pitch to buy the entire program, since only by getting your hands on all the material will you make the much desired change.
We have discounted, dismissed, and rejected simplicity, because well, it’s too simple. It doesn’t cost anything to get on your knees before God, it doesn’t cost anything to spend time in prayer, it doesn’t cost anything to read your Bible, to declare a fast, to desire true holiness in your life, and if it doesn’t cost anything, at least from a material standpoint, than it must not be worth anything. The bigger the price tag, the bigger the reward, at least that’s what some people would like you to think.
Take it from me dear friend, simplicity works. Jesus did not go into a long drawn out speech, theologically rich in the King James vernacular, expounding upon the lineage of His physical birth, pointing out all His accomplishments here on earth, trying to prove to Saul by the sheer body of work during three years who He was, He simply said, “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.”
Do you desire salvation? He is Jesus the Savior, merciful and loving. Are you going through trials, are you troubled, and uncertain concerning the future? He is Jesus, the faithful friend, the provider, complete in His wisdom and always there to carry us through our journey through the valleys of life. Have you been unfaithful or disobedient, and now return to Him weary and repentant? He is Jesus, the one who promised to always receive us, heal us, and rejoice on our behalf as would the shepherd who has found his wayward sheep.
It matters not what changes come, it matters not how our circumstances might differ from one day to the next, He remains forever unchanged, He remains Jesus, the One who is moved with mercy and compassion for mankind, the One who stands ready to forgive and restore.
Saul, this young rabbi, would have expected any other answer except the one he was hearing. How can it be Jesus? Is He not the figment of a mass delusion? Is He not merely a legend? Is He not just another impostor and blasphemer? How can Jesus still live, and now be speaking to him from the heavens? Was He not dead? Had He not expired upon a cross, and now lay in a tomb? All these questions stirring in the mind of a man once certain of his place in the world, and his duty toward the Sanhedrin.
When Jesus spoke these words to Saul, even though they were a mere handful, the deeper message He was attempting to impart was concerning not only the person of Christ, but also His nature. Those who refuse to accept the nature of Christ, those who resist being transformed, are persecuting Him. Saul did not love the nature of Christ, because His work and ministry sprang up from His nature. As a person, Saul did not know Jesus, but he despised His teaching and His nature, the essence of Christ, which now resided with His followers.
One can only imagine the reaction of the man once known as the persecutor of Tarsus, to the things that he was hearing. The reject One, the crucified One lives, He is alive in His heavenly glory. He is alive in His followers, those despised and hated by the Pharisees. It goes without saying that after such a profound revelation the life of Saul changed, irrevocably, and forever from that moment onward. We come to witness the life of Paul, once Saul, in the pages of the Bible and realize that he devoted himself in his entirety to the service of Jesus his Lord. We see that Paul loved Christ with the same burning intensity if not greater, as was his hatred toward Him before this great revelation.
Saul was stopped suddenly. Repentance is also done suddenly. The decision to submit to God, to repent, to relinquish the old ways, or to continue groveling in the mire of sin and desperation, comes about in a moment, in the blink of an eye. Delaying one’s decision is one of the greatest tools the enemy uses against mankind, a tool that is as effective as it is dangerous. If a man delays one day, he will be tempted to delay another, and before he knows it a lifetime has gone by, and he is still uncommitted, knowing that he must make a change, that he must repent, that he must kneel at the foot of the cross, but always finding a reason or an excuse to put it off just one more day.
For Saul there would be no delay, there would be no request for some time to think, to ponder, to weigh his options, to sow his oats, to live his life until finally with his final breaths he would acknowledge the Christ. Saul made his decision suddenly, and without any postponement.
Again we return to the words that Christ spoke to Paul, and peer deeper into the richness of their simplicity. ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting!’ Consider for a minute the present tense affirmation of these words. The voice did not say, I am Jesus who you were persecuting, or I was Jesus who you are persecuting, it said, ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.’
Although Jesus had left this world, He had not forsaken it. Unseen as He was, He was still present, sharing in the pain and the heartache of the faithful, for He is one with them. If I am a disciple of Christ, of I am a follower of Christ, then I must take comfort in the knowledge that He feels my suffering, and knows my pain. If by the same token I cause harm to His beloved, if by my actions, conduct, speech or teaching I do damage to the body, I am in effect doing it against Him as well.
When we ask with sincerity as Paul did, ‘who are you Lord?’ He will answer clearly, that we may understand Him, know Him and obey Him.
The Savior often reveals Himself based on the current condition and state of one’s soul as pertains to Him. To Saul He said, ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting’, but to another He might say, ‘I am Jesus who you are rejecting, or I am Jesus who you refuse to believe, I am Jesus who you are presenting in a different manner than how I am, or I am Jesus who you are seeking for your own selfish interest.’
Once this has been established, the Savior then reveals the truth that He revealed to Saul. ‘I am Jesus; I am one with those who believe in Me. Your attitude toward them, translates into your attitude toward Me. The way you treat them, translates into how you treat Me, because I am one with them. I am not a respecter of persons, I do not love only those who love you, nor do I hate those who do not think like you. I am above the divisions of men, divisions that are caused by sin, self-interest, or the spirit of denomination. I love the pure of heart, the repentant, and those who aspire toward righteousness.’
For Saul to remain in his current condition after his experience would truly be like kicking against the goads. A goad is a stick with a pointed piece of iron fastened to the end of it, and it is used to prod oxen on when they are plowing. When a stubborn ox attempts to kick back against the goads, it actually ends up wounding itself. Just like an ox kicking back against the goads, hurting itself, so is a unrepentant sinner, hurting only himself or herself by its refusal to embrace the love of Christ. As long as one is an enemy of Christ, by either their action or inaction, all they are really doing is hurting themselves repeatedly, damaging their mind, their spirit, their soul, and their future life.
For Saul there was no going back, no kicking against the goads, for truth had been revealed to him, a truth that would open his eyes, and reveal not only his own impotence, frailty, and wrongdoing, but also the love, mercy and restoring power of Christ Jesus.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.


Anonymous said...

Michael, thank you for words that comfort, yet convict. You are bringing Paul to life for me in a whole new way.

You need not be concerned about replying to our comments. It's a tremendous blessing just to receive your teachings. I've been seeking a REAL church for about five years, and gathering here around your blog with other hungry souls feels like real church and real fellowship. Thank you for this.


James Kinsman said...

Brother, you mentioned the rejoicing of Jesus when he finds His lost sheep. But do not forget this one thing: Jesus carries it on His shoulders back to the flock.

I marvel that my growth in Christ always without fail led me to rid myself of much knowledge and lead me to simple trust and faith. That in any conversation, there is an answer from above. All I shall do is ask the Father.

The Lord has shown me that I know nothing and only in the perpetual state of knowing nothing, not using any worldy knowledge or arguments but answering pure of heart allows God to be God and Jim to not interfere.

Oh the goodness of God to take me in. oh the goodness of God. What saved sinner cannot proclaim the goodness of God?

When Saul asked who it was, he already had given his heart to the voice. Brother, is that not the key to preaching the gospel? The pain comes with the name of the one who is preaching: Jesus Christ.

The pain comes with the simplicity of the message pounding within someone's heart. "You mean its not in any religion or any profound man, it is only in one name and only by blind faith?"

"Yes Yes Yes. Jesus Christ!"

I want to be carried by my Master. I want to find my rest and hope in Christ alone. I do not want to add or take away from Him.


Luk 15:5
"And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

A Seed Sower said...

Yes Jesus spoke of himself in the present tense, He is Alive, He is Risen, we serve a living active God, what a pity it is that so many seem to neglect this fact.
He is merciful and longsuffering with us not willing that any should perish, patient to the end. Dealing with hearts constantly, hearts that for the most part are not open to His calling. Hearts that are to caught up in this sinful world.
Oh the tradgedy of the the ear that will not hear the call of the Most High God.
Oh the tradgedy of the heart that believes it has no need to hear the voice of God.
OH the weeping and the wailing and the nashing of teeth that await those who reject the voice of God.

Anonymous said...

Bravo young brother! The older I get the more I examine my walk in the light of what is it costing me to follow Jesus. I must admit that often the trouble seems very small in light of what others have suffered throughout time. Either way I must continually keep my heart and relationship in check for I so easily get distracted or sleepy. Thank God for his mercy and longsuffering. I must decrease and He must increase.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael. May God bless you and keep you for your continued service. Your commentary on Saul is very encouraging and moving.

In Christ our Lord.

Your Brother


Anonymous said...

Hi - I am really happy to find this. Good job!