We have been discussing God encounters over the past six weeks or so of posts and we will finish this series up this week. Before anything else let me remind you that the most important God encounter you can have is where you meet Jesus and you understand His work on the cross. It is an encounter where you are transformed and changed by the power of God. It will change everything and give you a purpose in life. After that there are other encounters we can have with God where He shows us things like direction in life or seeing Him in fresh and new ways or where he confronts sin and sinful attitude or pushes us reach out beyond our borders to new people or where He restores us or where He completely transforms our lives. God encounters are where we have an overwhelming sense of the presence and power of God in our lives and they happen when we have an open heart and attitude toward God.
We have talked about a number of people who had encounters. We talked about Jacob and how he encountered God and left being reminded who God was and what He has done for him. We talked about Elijah who was discouraged and who encountered God and God reminded of the future in front of him and the hope that was in front of him. We talked about Ezekiel and his encounters and how God called him to do some seemingly crazy things and how Ezekiel’s dream died but how God gave him a new dream, new vision, and a new passion which he got because of his trusting God. We talked about the woman at the well and how she encountered Jesus and how he transformed her life and how she told everyone she could about Jesus and encouraged them to encounter Him for themselves. The last week we talked about how Jesus encountered Peter after he denied Christ and backslid and how in the encounter with Jesus, Peter was restored to his ministry because of his repentant heart and honest response to God. We have seen that God encounters people for a variety of reasons and it always radically changes the person and they are always better people because of their encounter with God.
Today we are going to start looking at the encounter that God had Saul who later becomes the apostle Paul. Look to Acts 9 and get picture of what happened and how God encountered Saul. Click here to read Acts 9:1-25.
This is a passage that many, if not all of you have read before – so let me remind you – do not lose the wonder of what happens here. Saul a Jewish member of the Sanhedrin became Saul the Apostle to the Gentiles – his name had not yet changed to Paul. Saul persecuted Christians, after his conversion, the Jews tried to kill him in Damascus and then in Jerusalem. He went everywhere planting churches, and Jews followed him to criticize . . . arrest . . . stone . . . and attempt to assassinate him. Without a doubt, the man who encountered Christ on the road to Damascus became the most influential name in the spread of Christianity. The encounter with Christ motivated him to sacrificial service. He preached the gospel, wrote letters, trained disciples and influenced the future direction of all of Christianity.
What can we learn from his encounter Christ that will help us? What are the important lessons for us to learn so we can encounter Christ in this way?
The first thing is this: An unbelieving person can encounter Christ and be transformed. Before Saul took the trip to Damascus, he was not converted. But in a transforming experience he met Jesus Christ, and was transformed. Not only was his personality transformed, his theology was transformed, and his purpose in life was transformed. This shows us that an unbeliever can be transformed and we need never lose sight of this and it is a sad time if or when do.
The thing is this; the call for all is tell those who do not know Christ how to find Him. Sometimes we have been believers so long that we forget what it is like to be an unbeliever. So instead of reaching out to the unbelievers in love, we condemn them. Instead of shining our light into the darkness, we condemn the darkness. We, many times, forget that an unbeliever can encounter Christ and will be transformed when they do. It is our calling to help them by pointing to Christ so that He can encounter them. We are many times like those around Saul and think that there is no way that God could save this person or that person! Then we do not trust that they are transformed and question it when they do not make the changes we think they need to make in the time we think they should be making it. We need to remember what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Paul who was Saul was a walking example of this and it is our calling to help others to see that they can be someone new in Christ and not discourage it or put road blocks that are not in Scripture in the way! It is our job to encourage an encounter with Christ.
Then we come to this: The basis of encountering Christ is not grounded in logical explanations or empirical proofs, but rather in an experience with Jesus Christ. Saul, who was trained in logic under Gamaliel, could easily argue against Christianity, and had rational arguments to defend his faith. However, Saul didn’t have any defense when he met Jesus Christ. In the same manner, many atheists and skeptics doubt the Word of God but when they meet Jesus Christ, no one has to prove to them that the Bible is the Word of God because they know it too be true when they encounter Christ! When they encounter Jesus Christ, they inwardly know that God exists, and that His Word is true. How about you, have you met Jesus? Have you encountered Jesus? Do you know Him from experiencing his love, power, presence, grace, and mercy in your life? Do you know that He is real? Are you living like it? Are you showing others His love, His grace, His mercy or are your lips saying one thing but you actions something else? When you truly meet Jesus, what Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, becomes your life – he writes: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Is it no longer I that live in you but Christ – again is that seen in your life daily?
If someone asked you how do you live a “Not I but Christ” in me life? How would you answer them? Any other thoughts on this post?