Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
- Acts 9:1-6
“The message is gripping: Show a man his failures without Jesus, and the result will be found in the roadside gutter. Give a man religion without reminding him of his filth, and the result will be arrogance in a three-piece suit. But get the two in the same heart – get sin to meet Savior and Savior to meet sin – and the result just might be another Pharisee turned preacher who sets the world on fire.”
- Max Lucado, The Greatest Moments
I was the guy that the bully beat up, so punching someone for calling me a sinner would not have happened. I did not own a three-piece suit when I had my encounter with Jesus, but there was arrogance in my timidity. The fear of public speaking kept me in the shadows, but I knew I was smart, and I knew the Bible. I didn’t need to know Jesus; I knew all about Him. I was the son of proud parents, and I was proud of being as close to perfect as you can get.
Of course, I was far from perfect. My Dad worked on the road most of the years that I grew up, at least the school years. It was just me and my mother at home. To compensate, I made a conscious effort to be perfect. Why put an additional burden on someone who was overworked, overwhelmed, and always sad? I had to do my part. In return, my mother never hinted that I had ever done anything wrong, but as soon as my Dad came home (a week later, or three months later), the belt would come off and the punishment would start. Obviously, my mother had told him to do it. He had no idea why he was whipping me, and I did not either.
But isn’t that what many of us do? We compare ourselves to others and think that the minor infractions in our lives could easily be overlooked. Since we overlook the little things, God should too, right? In the worldview, we are not just good, but perfect.
But then, we meet the perfect Jesus. In the reflection of his whiter than white garments, we see our filth. It’s a shock. I felt empty and wanted the Joy that others had, but I always knew there was something else. I knew, but until I saw my reflection against the purity of Jesus, I never knew what was needed to bridge the gap until then. I needed to surrender to the One who was perfect.
Once I realized that I could not get clean on my own and that I needed Jesus to do it, I was able to accept Jesus into my life. He then cleansed me. The Holy Spirit gave me the understanding necessary to figure out what I already knew in my Bible reading, but the Holy Spirit gave me the desire to keep reading.
In David Robertson’s book, A.S.K. (Ask, Seek, Knock), the fourth question in the book pertains to the sentence “God helps those who help themselves.” Most people think that this statement is a quote from the Bible. Robertson quickly states that this sentence is not in the Bible and is opposed to Biblical teaching. In anything that is lasting, we cannot help ourselves, and that was, in my case of coming to Christ, the largest barrier. My parents quoted the statement often and they read the Bible every night. I had probably had the Bible read to me (or I participated in the reading) 15 times from cover to cover before I met Jesus. Yet, I felt I had to help myself toward salvation. I had read the Bible enough to know that the statement was not in the Bible, but we live in a “to-do-list” world. Our entire society is based on a quotation that is not in the Bible. We must help ourselves, thinking that God will bless us for our ‘goodness.’ But that is not the way.
As for the Apostle Paul, or at this point the persecutor of Christians Saul, he met Jesus. He could not help himself afterwards. He was blind. He was led into Damascus, and God called Ananias to go to Saul and help him. Ananias did not like the idea. Saul had come there to persecute the Christians. Why help the enemy?
In this case, God had let Saul stew in his blindness so that Saul realized that he could not do anything on his own. God wanted Saul to know that he needed God’s help. Saul could not help himself. Saul had also read the Scriptures and was well versed in them. This time of blindness helped him to ‘see’ his spiritual blindness. The mercy shown by Ananias was simply additional evidence that Saul needed to resolve to follow Jesus.
I met Jesus a long time ago. Some of you may have only recently met Jesus. Some of you may wonder if Jesus is even there, and if so doubting if He pays attention. But Jesus is there. He gently knocks on the door of your spiritual home. Will you let Him in?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.