REDEMPTION AND CHANGE
Our belief in the Gospel is shown in two ways, whether we believe in that people can be forgiven if they are repentant and whether we believe that people can change. I know for us, it is so tempting to believe that certain people we hear or see in our lives cannot change but then we are truly displaying our lack of faith in the power of Jesus to save! Saul has turned into Paul and this is one of the most dramatic transformations in church history! This is all due to one encounter with the risen Christ and the story of Paul shows us that anyone can be changed so today can we believe in the transformative power of the Gospel in our lives and the lives of those around us?
NOTES ON THE PASSAGE
20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
We note here that Paul begins to spread the name of Jesus right from the start. This is typical of a person that has been caught on fire for the LORD or when someone becomes suddenly passionate about something. When there is passion, the need to tell everyone is a natural response to that because you want people to share in the experience. If we are not sharing Christ then are we in a place where we lost the fire for the LORD. If your fire for God is down then there are several things you can do which are the following:
Expose yourself to fire! Not literal fire but passion is something that cannot be taught but must be caught. If you are lacking in passion for the LORD then be around those who are on fire for God and when you put yourself in a group of those who are fire for him, you will realize that you will eventually catch it too if you are willing!
Fire does not always look like shouting or dancing but fire can also be quiet! When you are looking for fire, don’t copy others but be open to whatever the LORD gives you. True fire is not about how loud you can be but how committed you can be consistently to God.
Read the word and pray for God daily. Fire and passion for God comes from God. Therefore, until you are lit up, stand up daily in His presence through daily devotionals and prayer.
21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
People doubted Paul because of his past. When the Lord changes you, it doesn’t mean that people will necessarily believe the change in you. This is both natural and a shame because it can be discouraging when people from the start do not celebrate with you the amazing thing that God is doing but the past can be hard to shake off. Here are some things to combat this common response to change.
For those who see change in others: We need to first believe in people for when we choose to believe in people, it helps them continue in the transformation process that God has started. This will take time to do but we cannot trap people in their past because of our refusal to believe in what God can do in anyone’s life. Sometimes we kill a movement before it had a chance to start because of our lack of effort to encourage those trying to live their new lives in Christ.
If you are the one being changed: Know that if you have a sketchy past, that it will take time for people to believe you. Your response is not to be bitter or have a “I’ll show you” mentality but to keep your purpose on sharing what God is doing in your life. Notice how Paul didn’t spend one word defending his transformation but simply lived out his transformation consistently! Paul let his life do the convincing and at times like this, to show the power of Christ in you is to be consistently living for Christ regardless of the words of others.
23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.
People were now plotting to kill Paul. Know that when you live for Jesus that you will begin to attract misunderstanding and if not hatred from your former friend group that does not know Christ. But the flipside here is that Paul still had disciples that supported him! He was still able to influence his old followers to stay loyal to him. Know that your conversion is a bridge for those in your former life to know Christ so don’t cut ties off with people but seek to influence them through the bridge of friendship. The only time cutting people off would be necessary is if they are consistently leading you away from God but if that is not happening, keep those relationships and be the light to them!
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
People were scared of Paul and rightfully so! Yet in verse twenty-seven, Barnabas defends Paul. When we see God move in people’s lives, we must like Barnabas see with objective eyes rather than see with eyes from the past alone. As much as it is the person themselves that must take care of the blessing of God’s presence in their lives, it is also the job of the community to help take care of the move of God in other people’s lives through belief and encouragement!
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
After the persecution we see that there was peace and a building up of the church. The persecution spread them out but the peace was used to build them up. What is interesting to note is the end of verse thirty-one where the church was both in the fear of the Lord yet comforted by the Holy Spirit. How is this possible? The fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit go hand in hand for the fear of God gives people a proper perspective of God so that you live rightly before him. The comfort of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we shouldn’t have an irrational fear of God for the balanced view of God is that we should treat Him as Lord and realize that He is in charge but at the same time that He is our loving Father in heaven who takes care of His children!