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God’s Gift

English: Tail-piece to Ephesians. Ephesians 3:...

English: Tail-piece to Ephesians. Ephesians 3:14-15. Vignette with rays of light emanating from a Hebrew inscription including the name of God; letterpress in two columns above. 1800. Inscriptions: Lettered below image with production detail: “P J de Loutherbourg del”, “J. Heath direx” and publication line: “Pubd by T. Macklin, Fleet Street”. Print made by James Heath. Dimensions: height: 485 millimetres; width: 395 millimetres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith;  and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

It is through God’s unlimited Grace that we are saved; even faith as small as a mustard seed gives us ability and power to carry out His Will for our lives. Even in the midst of the storm, His Grace is there; you just have to receive it.

 

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Baptism Christ immersion

Baptism Christ immersion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After returning home from church today, I  was watching a sermon by the late Adrian Rogers. Right in the middle of the sermon, he told the congregation he was taking a detour from the main message to explain something about baptism: That some believe you don’t receive salvation until you are baptized. He explained the wording in the passage of Acts 2:38

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized  every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive  the gift of the Holy Ghost.

He explained that in the phrase ‘for the remission of sins’, the word ‘for’ in both the Greek and in English has more than one meaning. One meaning is ‘to get, or obtain’ (the meaning inferred by those who say salvation only comes after baptism); and the other meaning is ‘because of’ or ‘as a result of’ . Eis is the Greek word translated in English as ‘for’ and carries the same meanings as the English. Dr. Rogers showed that they were to be baptized ‘as the result of’ the remission of their sins through God’s grace and Christ’s blood.

Why add another step to salvation? Christ suffered mightily that ALL would be saved through His death and resurrection. Why make it even more complicated for an unbeliever to come to Christ? The Greek translated as repent means ‘a change of mind’. It is a turning aside from one’s sinful life to one that serves the Lord. Why would someone tell the new believer, once they have taken that step, that they have to wait until a baptism is arranged ‘somewhere’ at ‘some’ church, to receive their forgiveness? In all likelihood, the new believer hasn’t been to church in a long time, if ever! Why put restrictions on it?

Before some get uptight about this, I must state that baptism IS important! Once one repents (and is saved), the regeneration is begun and one will have the desire to make it public. Therefore, they will want to find a church, pastor and congregation to attend and get baptized. Baptism is the ‘ultimate’ public confession and demonstration of one’s newfound belief in the saving grace of Christ’s death. If salvation wasn’t given until after one was baptized, the new believer might have quite a while until a baptism is arranged. Admittedly, in NT times, it likely was easier to speedily baptize soon after accepting Christ, as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch encountered by Philip. In that passage, after presenting Christ to the eunuch, they traveled along until they happened upon some water. Philip hadn’t stressed that the Ethiopian wasn’t saved yet; it was the eunuch himself who proposed that he could be baptized there and Philip agreed. Indeed, John the Baptist practised his ministry near the Jordan. Nowadays, one must find a clergyman who can do it. I think even some churches want you to become a member first. (I could be wrong about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised.)

I’m afraid this may have become somewhat of an obsession with me, this ‘teaching’ that one isn’t saved until after baptism. As I stated in the other post, it smacks too much of legalism and ritual. One should be baptized and having received Christ shouldn’t have any objections to it. But there are many places in the New Testament that don’t give that order of salvation and having listed some in the earlier post, I won’t add to this one.

The forgiveness of one’s sins is a FREE GIFT! Through God’s unlimited Grace and the redemptive work of Christ’s crucifixion, the world’s sins have been forgiven! Christ is not going to stop you at the pearly gates and refuse your admittance because you weren’t baptized!

On Faith

FAITH

FAITH (Photo credit: cacigar)

Galatians 3:22-26

22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

A Bit of Clarification…

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my post Time’s Fast Running Out, I had the scripture from 2 Peter 3:8. However, as I was composing the remainder, I totally forgot the reason for putting it there.

As we become more aware of what’s going on in the world, those who are attuned to Bible prophesy recognize the signs too many miss that herald the coming of Christ. This passage came to my mind one day, and although I knew it was in the Bible, I wasn’t sure where it was. Not long after, I came across the exact Scripture and knew what had been revealed to me:

2 Peter 3:8

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.

It’s been close to 2 thousand years since Christ was crucified. Remember…He rose at dawn on the third day.

We have entered into the dawn of that third day!

Dear people! Open your hearts to Christ! Do not lean onto your own understanding! No one knows the exact date, but if you pay attention to what’s going on in the world and listen to those who study Bible prophesy, you will see. Many ministries who evangelize and reach out to the ends of the earth have covered the globe with the Gospel, preaching it, planting churches, giving out Bibles and study materials, and others through media such as the internet and satellite dishes.  Because of this, the Church is reaching more and more people every day who have not heard the Good News, but the numbers are getting smaller all the time!

Wake up! Stand up! Look up! We are going up! (quote from Pastor John Hagee).

God wants everyone..EVERYONE…to accept Christ. But He gave us free will, so it’s OUR decision.

CHOOSE LIFE!

Time’s Fast Running Out

2 Peter 3:8

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day

Recent world events has every one on edge; not just political, but natural, and even cosmic. Many people who study Bible prophecy have reported that there is nothing left to be fulfilled for Christ’s return. Let me be clear, though, for the sake of those who may not fully understand.

Christ is returning; this is known in Christendom as ‘The Second Coming’. This return will be when He comes to rid the world of satan and his followers and establish His Kingdom here on earth.  He will actually ‘set His foot’ on the earth. However, this event will be the second ‘second’ coming…bear with me!

His first ‘Second Coming’ will be for His Church, most commonly known as ‘The Rapture‘.  According to Bible prophecy, He will come back to gather the Church and remove them from the earth before ‘The Great Tribulation‘, that seven-year period described as the worst time in world history, when the antichrist will rule the earth under the ‘New World Order’.  After this will come the battle between good and evil many call Armageddon.  Just before that time, when the nations are gathering to come against Israel, Christ will return, with Heaven’s Armies, (including the Church He recently gathered), engage the devil in a final showdown where He will come out victorious, satan and his minions will be thrown into the pit, and His Kingdom will be established on Earth.

I believe many think of the Rapture as His ‘Second Coming.’ He will not actually set foot on Earth; He will gather the Church up from the Earth in the air and escort them (those that are alive in Christ [believers] and those that are dead). Those that are dead will be resurrected first and those that are alive will meet them in the air as we are all brought to Him at the same moment, “in the twinkling of an eye“.

Now that I have established this short explanation, I’ll get to the real point of this post.

TIME’S A’WASTING, PEOPLE!

Sorry for the caps, but I really want to get your attention. In the last few months, I’ve heard several pastors and people of God declare that there is nothing to be fulfilled for His return. This means…His return for the Church, not the battle against satan. There are still some things that need to happen before that seven year period; however, there are things already set in motion for these events to take place.  [Check out The Hal Lindsey Report and view the archives]

The first person I heard declare this was Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. He has studied Bible prophecy for many years and doesn’t mince words in his sermons. At the time I heard this, I had a sudden vision of Christ standing at the gates of Heaven, clothed in His Glory.

The only thing left is for God to say “Go, My Son, bring Your Bride home to Me!”.

That is  the reason for the title of this post. Too many people think they have plenty of time; unfortunately, it’s very fast running out. I’m not in any way trying to imply that I know when this will happen, because no one knows, only God.

As some people say “I’d rather be saved and die to find out there is no God, than not be saved, then die to find out there IS!”

Don’t put it off any longer. The time is NOW!

Michael Youssef is a wonderful pastor whose deep love for America is boundless. This article from his website gives you key points to help your prayer life become more powerful and effective:

The Key to Powerful and Effective Prayers – Feature Articles – Leading The Way.

Recently, I chanced upon a teaching I’d never heard of before. One that really got me to thinking.

This teaching says that one doesn’t actually receive salvation (the forgiveness of one’s sins), until AFTER you have been baptized. Scripture was given as proof, as well. This disturbed me, so I challenged this, saying that this teaching was effectively saying that Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection was not enough, that a new believer has another step to take before forgiveness is granted, giving the example of the thief on the cross, who, obviously, would not get an opportunity to be baptized.

The reply shot this down, saying that those who refute this teaching always uses the thief on the cross beside Christ as an example. Their reasoning is that the Old Covenant was still in effect and that the New Covenant didn’t apply at that time. (Hummmm…) The first scripture given as proof was Acts 2:38

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

It is the combination of the act of repenting and being baptized, a sequence that those who promote this teaching seems to say that salvation comes only after being baptized.  I will even go further and say that in the Gospel of Mark, Christ, Himself says:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Note, however, the last part of the saying: ‘he that believeth not shall be damned.’

So, I ask, why would God want to make it harder to be saved? Why put in that extra step before granting salvation? The most famous, and likely the most quoted verse of the bible says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Simple as that. Yes, it is important to be baptized; it’s the public confession that one believes in Christ and the finished work of the cross.

There are many verses in the New Testament that can be called up as proof of salvation when one asks for forgiveness:

John 5:24

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you , He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 6:47

47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

John 3:14-15

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Acts 2:21

21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

1 Peter 1:3

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercyhe has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Ephesians 2:8

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Acts 4:12

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Romans 10:9-10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Then there is this:

Acts 8: 8-24

 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of longtime he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

It shows in this passage that Simon (who was also called Magus because he was a sorcerer) had obviously not believed, though he professed to, and so was baptized.

According to Gill’s commentary:

Acts 8:13
Then Simon himself believed also,…. With an historical and temporary faith, as that Jesus was the Messiah, &c. or at least he pretended, to believe this, and professed that he did believe, what others did, and Philip preached:

and when he was baptized; upon profession of his faith, which he so artfully made, that Philip could not discover his hypocrisy: but taking him to be a sincere believer, admitted him to baptism: after which,

he continued with Philip; kept close to him, and got into a familiar acquaintance with him; and constantly attended on his ministry, as if he had been a sincere disciple and follower of Christ:

and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done; he was as much amazed at the miraculous performances of Philip, as the inhabitants of Samaria had been at his, which he could observe were real things; and this increased his wonder, and threw him into an ecstasy, that he was scarce himself: whereas he knew that what he did were only sham performances, and legerdemain tricks.

Barnes agrees:

Acts 8:13

Then Simon himself believed also – That is, he believed that Jesus had performed miracles, and was raised from the dead, etc. All this he could believe in entire consistency with his own notions of the power of magic; and all that the connection requires us to suppose is that he believed this Jesus had the power of working miracles; and as he purposed to turn this to his own account, he was willing to profess himself to be his follower. It might have injured his popularity, moreover, if he had taken a stand in opposition when so many were professing to become Christians. People often profess religion because, if they do not, they fear that they will lose their influence, and be left with the ungodly. That Simon was not a real Christian is apparent from the whole narrative, Act_8:18, Act_8:21-23.
And when he was baptized – He was admitted to a “profession” of religion in the same way as others. Philip did not pretend to know the heart; and Simon was admitted because he “professed” his belief. This is all the evidence that ministers of the gospel can now have, and it is no wonder that they, as well Philip, are often deceived. The reasons which influenced Simon to make a profession of religion seem to have been these:
(1) An impression that Christianity was “true.” He seems to have been convinced of this by the miracles of Philip.
(2) the fact that many others were becoming Christians; and “he” went in with the multitude. This is often the case in revivals of religion.
(3) he was willing to make use of Christianity to advance his own power, influence, and popularity – a thing which multitudes of men of the same mind with Simon Magus have been willing since to do.
He continued … – It was customary and natural for the disciples to remain with their teachers.
And wondered – This is the same word that is translated “bewitched” in Act_8:9, Act_8:11. It means that he was amazed that Philip could “really” perform so much greater miracles than “he” had even pretended to. Hypocrites will sometimes be greatly attentive to the external duties of religion, and will be greatly surprised at what is done by God for the salvation of sinners.
Miracles and signs – Greek: signs and great powers, or great miracles. That is, so much greater than he pretended to be able to perform.

The Geneva commentary states:

The wicked and the highly reprobate are often forced to taste the good gift of God, but they immediately spit it out again.

Simon had been baptized, but obviously was not saved; he didn’t believe in the first place, therefore, he didn’t receive salvation, even though he had been baptized. Nothing more is said of him in the New Testament; however, outside sources attest to his behavior after this:

From Gill:

Acts 8:24
Then answered Simon, and said,…. Whose conscience might be touched, and smote with what Peter had said; and he might be terrified with the wrath of God, and filled with fear of his judgment coming upon him for his wickedness, and might now stand trembling before the apostles: and if this was not his case, he was a most hardened and audacious wretch; and his following words must be understood in a different sense, from what they might seem to have, when they came out of his mouth:

pray ye to the Lord for me; the Arabic version reads, “pray ye two”; the words are addressed both to Peter and John; for though Peter only spake to him, yet John joined with him, and assented to what he said, and approved of it; and which he might signify either by word or gesture; wherefore Simon desires both of them, that they would pray to the Lord for him; but whether he was serious, and in good earnest in this, is a question; since there is no reason to believe he truly repented, from the accounts given of him by ancient writers; who always represent him as an opposer of the apostles and their doctrine, as the father of all heresies, as a blasphemous wretch; who gave out that he was the Father in Samaria, the Son in Judea, and the Holy Ghost in other places; and as a very lewd and wicked man, who carried about with him a whore, whose name was Helena; whom he called the mother of the universe, and gave out the angels were made by her, and the world by them; with many other errors, blasphemies, and impieties: so that it should rather seem, that though Peter was serious in his advice to Simon, yet he was not so in his request to him; but in a sarcastic sneering way, desired his prayers for him; suggesting, that he was not in any pain about what he had said: and if he was in earnest, he did not take Peter’s advice to pray for himself; nor did he declare any repentance for his sin; and his desire that the apostles would pray for him, might not be from any sense he had of the evil of his sin, but from a slavish fear of the evil, or mischief, that was like to come upon him for his sin, as appears by what follows:

that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me; as that his money should perish with him, and he with that; or that he should go into destruction; that everlasting destruction and ruin would be his portion; and that he should have no part nor lot in eternal life, unless he repented, and his sin was pardoned: and this confirms what has been before observed, that John assented to what Peter spoke, or said the same, or such like things to Simon as he did.

God knows the human heart and the desire to repent (turn away) of one’s sins must be present to gain His forgiveness.  Why would He want to make it more complicated to come to Him and receive salvation? I believe there is more evidence for salvation upon belief than there is for it’s granting only after baptism.  The more I read, the more passages I found to support that. In my opinion, this is a false teaching and those who aren’t sure should read the New Testament thoroughly.

Also, this teaching that one doesn’t receive salvation until one is baptized sounds too much like legalism. Just as the Jewish Christians tried to force the Gentiles to be circumcised when they received Christ. This is recorded in Acts 15:1-31. It was decided not to burden new uncircumcized believers with a ‘yoke’ that neither they nor their ancestors could bear.

Salvation is a FREE GIFT from God! All that is absolutely required is belief that Christ willingly and lovingly died on the cross to pay our sin debt and accept Him into our hearts as our Lord and Savior. Period.

So here I am again…after another absence.

I’ve been going through a lot of private struggles lately. The enemy has certainly been trying his best to get to me. It’s only been through prayer, support from Christian friends and most of all, God’s mercy and grace that I’ve come through…though not without a few scars.

God didn’t promise us an easy life after salvation. But He did promise to always be there. Even if we can’t ‘feel’ Him, even if it seems He’s forgotten about us, even when we think we aren’t worthy to approach Him.

These are all lies satan whispers to us. The enemy can’t read our minds, but he can ‘suggest’ these things to us. Sometimes, it can be so subtle, we don’t even realize what’s happening until we’ve succumbed into believing it. It’s one of the tactics he uses to get to us, and quite frankly, one of the easiest for him to employ. He knows human nature and all the right buttons to push. Remember the Garden of Eden? All he had to do was make Adam and Eve think God might be holding out on them and that was it for the rest of the human race.

And the enemy never gives up trying to bring you down; even mature Christians can fall for his lies, given the right circumstances, though I do want to state that mature Christians usually already know about and know how to deal with such attacks.

One way to defend yourself is to put on the Armor of God: Ephesians 6: 11-18

I suggest that you put the armor on upon waking and before rising.  Just begin with a simple prayer, then deliberately put on each piece:

I put on myself the Helmet of Salvation to protect my mind from any attacks of the enemy.

I place the Breastplate of Righteousness to guard my heart.

I put on the Girdle of Truth, that I may stand in the day, and

I shod my feet with the Sandals of Peace, that I will walk where You lead.

And I take up the Shield of Faith, which protects me from all fiery darts from the enemy.

Finally, I pick up the Sword of the Spirit, which is Your Word.

Not only have I had to deal with personal attacks, but some that came from others, mostly to  cause me to question and doubt. I’ll be posting about one in particular, as it entailed serious study and discussion with others.

The Prodigal Son

Well, I’m back after a long time away. I have to confess that I got pulled into Facebook; not that FB is bad or anything, but I got caught up into playing the games they have there after seeing one my sister was playing on her account. So, thinking I would only be playing that one game, I joined and started playing. For a while, there wasn’t any problem; it was enjoyable and I liked it quite a lot.

Then I started playing another game…

Then another….and another…

Now let me state that there is nothing wrong with playing those games. They are fun and enjoyable..at least when my computer wasn’t freezing up on me or the connection to the server got lost.  It became frustrating, just trying to play any of them.

But the worst thing?

It took me away from the Father. I’m not saying I turned my back on Him, no. Playing those games took up so much time, so much of my thinking that they were the first thing I wanted to do when I got home from work. After doing what I needed to do every day when I got home, I turned on my computer and went straight to Facebook. Trying to keep up with all the requests and playing the games, the hours flew by. I was consumed with keeping the games going and getting to the next level.

And that was the problem. I had no time for God. I got out of praying every day, going to church, etc. Mind you, it was not that I wasn’t convicted about this. But I deceived myself into thinking they were just games. But deep down, I knew it was wrong. It wasn’t wrong to play the games; it was wrong that I had allowed them to nearly take over my life. I was even loosing sleep because I would stay up late trying to keep up with all of them. And it didn’t help that during part of that time, I was working 9 hours a day, 6 days a week. It simply got too exhausting.

I finally said enough. Can you see how insidious the enemy can be? I was on the verge of becoming addicted to these silly games! If the devil can get even the tiniest hook into you, you’re in trouble if you aren’t watchful.

I rarely go to FB anymore, even though my daughter and grandchildren now have accounts there. Not so much because I’m afraid of getting back to that place of trying to keep up with those games…I just am not that interested in it anymore.

That and I have much more important things to take care of.

Such as my personal relationship with the Father.

Acts 9

1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

10And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

17And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

19And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

21But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

22But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

23And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

24But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

25Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

26And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

28And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

29And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

30Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. (Acts 9:1-31, King James Version)

This chapter of Acts recounts the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus by Jesus Christ Himself.

I chose the King James Version of this event, because newer translations, like the NIV and NLT, leave out Christ’s comment about it being hard for Saul to ‘kick against the pricks’, and more importantly, Saul’s first question after learning Who this ‘vision’ was:  “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

Saul, possibly the most dogged and tenacious persecutor of the the early Christians, a Pharisee, obedient to the Law of Moses his entire life, has been hand-picked by our Lord and Saviour to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Saul, the man who was present at the stoning of Stephen, Christianity’s first martyr, who had documentation in hand to bring anyone, man or woman who professed to follow The Way back to Jerusalem, trembled in fear and astonishment. Here was the very Man who had been crucified, ALIVE, shining with a glorious blinding light and speaking to him. The Man whose followers he had vowed to eradicate.

And his very first communication to Him was a question:

“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

His conversion was instantanious. He didn’t ask “Why me, of all people?”  Or “Are you serious??”

His first act, with those words, was to hand his life over to Christ.

As we see later in the chapter, he received the Holy Ghost when Ananias healed his blindness. Today, believers receive the Holy Spirit when they truly believe and confess their sins and ask God for forgiveness. Here, in this passage, Saul, the most ardent of persecutors of the early Christians believed the instant Christ identified himself. And, without hesitation, gave himself over to Christ’s guidance.

Many people believe that Saul, renamed by Christ to Paul, is possibly the greatest of the apostles. I certainly do, though I do want to clarify that I don’t put him before Christ. No, it is my opinion that Paul epitomizes what a Christian should be. Devoted completely to Christ, living his life in God’s will, and gladly evangelizing the Gospel every chance he got.

Of course, we, as mere humans, flawed as we are, can find living one’s life entirely for Christ quite daunting. And too many do not even try to do even simple evangelizing. Certainly, we can’t all travel to the end’s of the earth, preaching the Good News. But we don’t even try to talk to people we know about Christ. Fear of embarrassment, or rejection, or some other reason gets in the way of the Great Commission.

My prayer is that we all, including myself, ask God for guidance and courage to speak to others about Christ and spread the News as He commanded. The Apostle Paul set the standard for us. We should do no less than to follow his example

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