Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord,?” was the unexpected beginning of his identity with Christ. We see the reality of the man God created Paul to be unfold in a large part of the New Testament. Those words still inspire us today to discover the reality of our own identity with Christ.
You know Paul’s story. He walked down that Damascus road convinced he knew the unassailable truth about God. Paul saw himself as obedient, full of moral virtue and willing to brutally ensure the future of what he believed. God saw something more: a committed man who was not Godless, but not Godly either when He asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Paul’s identity with Christ began when he replied “Who are you, Lord?” The answer would open his eyes and change his heart from the unassailable truth he knew ABOUT God to the unassailable truth OF God. The Bible is filled with stories of flawed, but not Godless, people we can easily identify with who were changed into Godly people with a new identity. Paul wrote about his own experience of God’s revealed truth. That truth still has the power to change the identity of those who dare to ask “Who are you, Lord?”
I noticed and interesting thing after I’d finished my list of word ideas to pursue in these next few weeks. The first word of each combination was capitalized but the second was not. It was only a function of digital grammar but it made me think about those combinations differently. The capitalized word became an attribute of God to be practiced and for sure the lower case one the challenge of practicing them. If I looked at them that way, how were they related? Where is it written?
Zephaniah 3:17 For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. Living Bible [TLB]
It’s a fact! “He will love you and not accuse you.” YOU are the object of God’s Affection! Ponder what walking in that Affection might mean.
It’s the definition of that next word that’s the challenge of our daily life. God looked at the male and female he’d created and because they were the completed image of himself, they were by definition Perfect [with a capital P], weren’t they? Our definition of perfection has taken a turn for the worse and lost it’s capital “P.” Rather than being focused on practicing the Affection of God and who he’s created us to be our focus has become skewed by the complication our own ideas of perfection. God is determined to simplify our lives and change our ideas too. Here’s where it’s written.
Micah 6:6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. [NIV]
Our possessions and offerings are different now but they’re still what confuse our perfection. It’s much harder to give the simplest of things – ourself. He knows firsthand our possessions and our wealth are not the answer to our perfection because He personally experienced everything we struggle with. The substitution of Jesus Christ “for the sin of [our] soul” has made the capital “P” part of the picture again for us. It takes time and it’s not easy but it’s simple: Perfection will come with the practice of walking daily in his Affection for you.
“He [God] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
14 Follow me…
17 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…
Could there be a more unlikely choice than Levi [Matthew] for Jesus to choose as his second object lesson to the crowd as they walked through Capernaum? They’d certainly heard that Jesus had power over physical illness but this was Levi the local tax collector. Levi had been given his power by the king to make his living by squeezing as much of their money from them as he could. What could he possibly deserve, or need, compared to some poor invalid?
This time Jesus sees something invisible in a man it’s likely no one else in that crowd would ever choose. He chooses Levi. Jesus simply said “follow me” and Levi got up and followed him. It was a different kind of miracle that revealed Jesus is a very different kind of King that has the power to make a visible change in the circumstances of a life forever.
Philippians 1:14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Have you noticed how similar the words change and chains sound? Paul only mentions chains but he’s making a pretty clear connection between chains and “change” in this verse. That’s what started me thinking and looking in a topical bible to find references to those two words. What I found out was interesting. Chains were shackles for those who were imprisoned BUT they were also ornamentation [jewelry] for princes, priests and even camels.
Paul’s chains were meant to constrain him but instead they’ve become like jewelry to him. They are the visible evidence that reminds him, and others, “most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” They’ve become chains that led to change.
Now about that word “change.” Oddly I didn’t find any direct references in my topical Bible to “change” but that word made me think of changing clothes and this part of Job 29:14. “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me…” It’s interesting to think how much emphasis I put on how I’ve changed as a believer. I’ve got the right clothes now but did I forget the right jewelry?
Is it possible that God has changed those very chains I was so happy to be rid of into the jewelry meant to become ornamentation for my new clothes? Is that jewelry visible evidence that allows my brothers and sisters to see how Christ can turn chains into change for them too?
I’m confident along with Paul that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Jesus has the power to turn chains into eye-catching jewelry to accent the beauty of being dressed in his righteousness.
Psalms 91:2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
I chose the theme of repentance as my focus for Lent. It’s a good topic, right? What I didn’t comprehend was just how serious God was about “his” choice to make “my” choice very personal this year. I could rightly describe some of my many years as a believer as “forgettably faithful” but not this one.
It’s so much easier to talk about repentance than to be confronted with the need for it. It’s exhausting and frankly painful. The “fowler’s snare” is the choice to accept this lie…’You blew it. You had the chance to get it right and you failed yourself and the Lord.’ That’s guilt…and that’s not how God chooses to change us.
OR…you can make this different choice; to be thankful that though your faith has taken a big blow in the light of reality, God has loved you enough to remind you of your need for him. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; [HIS] faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” That’s where repentance happens.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. נ Nun
Back on September 4 when I was in my long study of this Psalm I wrote about the eight verses of “Nun” from the point of view that we begin life pretty much in the dark, looking like one thing but if we’re plugged into God’s plan we finally become what he’s meant us to be all along. Life in Christ is finding the path to get from that beginning to where we need to be. This verse is a reminder, the Word isn’t always a spotlight. Sometimes it’s a purposely directed flashlight beam that’s enough to light a path needed to navigate current events by.
Check out this 7-day devotional, Thriving in Babylon. [click title] It’s a story about Daniel, a man forced to live in the midst of big changes beyond his control. He faces fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of a world that seems to be falling apart. Sound familiar?
This is a quote from Day 2.“Daniel’s humble respect was tied to his firm belief that God is in control of who is in control. It wasn’t merely a theological axiom. It was a reality he lived by. He saw Nebuchadnezzar as God’s servant, a wicked king allowed to reign for a period of time in order to fulfill God’s sovereign purpose—in this case, the discipline and judgment of Jerusalem for the sins of its people. Daniel wasn’t respectful because Nebuchadnezzar deserved it.
He was respectful because God commanded it.”