If you haven't read the last devotional, please go check out "Our Pal Paul/Saul" in the Devotions page here! Now we are turning to Acts chapter 9 to see this man full of hate for the disciples completely turn his heart around for Christ.
To recap, we recalled that we all have moments as Saul; sin is real, and sin is within all of us. We may not be killing Christians, but any sin separates us from the light and from God, therefore simply killing our own relationship with Him. Thank goodness that we can repent and go to God for forgiveness and pray for a clean and renewed heart open to His will and command and love! Let's read together the power of Christ and the power of repentance in chapter 9 of the book of Acts:
1Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
3As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
5“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
10Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord!” he replied.
11The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”
13“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
15But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.16And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
17So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
21All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”
So we begin the chapter seeing Paul "eager" to kill the Christians in Damascus. He "wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains." This is how serious of a conversion this is about to be when you take a look at his heart before he repented and saw the Lord. As he's on his way, the light of the Lord was shown to him with the voice of God. Picture this and picture that you're with him; how crazy would that be?? All of a sudden this man who is so strong inside and out and who seems to be undefeated falls to the ground, and a large voice is talking to them, but they see nothing! (vs. 7) Paul, who saw and heard everything, couldn't help but react in such a humble way because God's power and might was evident. I love the Lord's response: "I am Jesus who you are hating and persecuting." He's basically saying excuse me, stop poking me with a stick. And then, he doesn't argue or say anything else about the fact that Saul was killing so many. Jesus immediately commands of him to go to the city and listen to him. Did you get that? Jesus didn't waste time on telling him how wrong Saul was when he sinned so much against Jesus and His children. He didn't take the time to scold him, He showed himself and said yes, it is me, now here's what you will do. This is a calling from God.
Later, the Lord says that Saul is his "chosen instrument to take [his] message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake." (vs. 15-16). So here you can see that regardless of everything, the Lord already had a plan for Saul to become a great disciple and to help others understand how to serve Christ. He does also say that he will show him how to suffer for Christ, which we do read in many of Paul's books. He did suffer, but he gained so much life in return from God. Paul later told us many times in his writings and books that suffering in Christ is exactly what God has asked of us. His suffering was definitely different than what some of us go through, however it's all in the same.
Finally, after a few days, Saul admits that it was the Son of God and becomes a Christian. This is the great conversion for him, and an example of a real man changing for the name of Christ. He became one of the greatest disciples and teachers of God's word, relying totally and completely on God, and giving his life up for Christ. Jesus said, "whoever follows me must take up his cross," and "whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will save it." This is what Paul did. The man who killed essentially killed his old self to help others reach salvation and eternity with Christ in paradise. He became the humble servant following Christ's example. What I'm trying to help you understand is that, whatever you are doing in life, and wherever you are in your walk with Christ, it is not too late to listen to God and hear his will. It is not too late to repent from the sin that keeps us from hearing and paying attention to the truth.
God is real, and God is working in you!