This past Sunday I returned in preaching to the book of Acts. I had a taken a few months off after we did the first part. This Sunday I began the second part of Acts, beginning with chapter 9 and God's call of Paul. Two things really jumped out to me while preparing to preach which I wanted to share:
1. Saul was saved by God's grace which finally allowed him to see himself and Jesus clearly. Both must happen. Until we see ourselves clearly--that is, our secret sins, the deep-rootedness of our pride, how we are often content to waste our lives only fulfilling our needs and our desires, how difficult it is to actually change the worst parts of us ... until we see that and face it and don't run away from it, we don't know ourselves.
To be clear, we also are created with good talents and good gifts, but we usually don't have trouble seeing those. It's the parts we don't like that we avoid confronting. Saul didn't see all this until he was blinded on the road by the presence of Jesus. Years later he wrote, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man..." (1 Timothy 1:13a) - however, until that fateful day he would never have thought that to be true about himself. I would argue he wasn't acting hypocritically, he was acting ignorantly. He actually didn't know the truth about himself and Jesus.
How well do you know yourself? How well have you suppressed the truth about yourself?
God blinded him for three days. He spent what may have been the worst three days of his life in darkness. Fasting, praying and thinking in a house in Damascus. The risen Jesus had opened his eyes to the truth with one question: "Saul, Saul, why are your persecuting me?" This question tore down the illusion of goodness and religiosity that Saul hid behind, and he was exposed before the very God he claimed to serve.
2. I was also struck by the parallels between Saul and the Old Testament prophet, Jonah. Jonah also was in rebellion against God's commands--though unlike Saul, he did it knowingly, not ignorantly. He too, was met by God's grace and sent into darkness for three days to pray and fast, and see himself. Read Jonah 2 for the prayer of a man who finally saw himself and God's grace. It is sad and hopeful at the same time. One of my favorite portions is this: "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them." (Jonah 2:7-8)
Don't cling to a worthless idol - whatever it may be. Instead turn toward God's love, displayed for you in Christ Jesus.
So, get alone with yourself and Jesus. You may hate this because there will be painful parts of yourself that are still there, things you have been trying to ignore and avoid. But I encourage you to get alone with Jesus so that you can repent and receive the forgiveness and mercies of God, and travel the road of Christian maturity and growth.