Number 41 March 16, 2003
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15
A 180 Degree Turn
By Jack Northart
The Book of Acts gives a record of a man who was one of the most loathsome individuals to the early Christian Church. We begin this record in Acts 7 right after the killing of Stephen.
Acts 7:58, 8:1-3
And cast him [Stephen] out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Saul was a very mean and nasty individual at that time and made havoc of the Church. He would find out where the believers were living and meeting together, and would drag them out and carry them to prison. He obviously felt that it was his responsibility to get rid of these people. To Saul, they were a blight against the status quo in that day and time.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest.
From the outside of the pail, it appeared that this Saul was public enemy number one to the believers. He was the cause of certain disciples of the Lord being arrested, beaten and killed. He was definitely not someone that you might want to invite to church. But fortunately for him, God had other plans for his life. Saul was about to make a 180 degree turn.
And he 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. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me. And 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. And 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. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And 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. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
So, life for Saul has just changed for the better, and for the first century church as well. Can you imagine what must have been going through his mind? The mental struggle to make this kind of change in his life must have been staggering. His old ways of doing things had reached an abrupt end. After getting healed by a certain disciple named Ananias, he begins his transformation exercises.
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
This may have appeared to many like Saul had a split personality. Here he was preaching about Christ, but not long before, he had been persecuting others for doing the same thing! What happened? He made a 180 degree turn on the road to Damascus. His life was never going to be the same again.
Saul was his Hebrew name, Paul was his Greek name. He later describes in the book of Galatians what he did to get on track with the Lord.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which he once destroyed. And they glorified God in me.
Paul was now working for a different boss. Instead of hurting, he was healing. Instead of compelling people to blaspheme, he was now entreating them to live for God. While he was persecuting the Church earlier, he was devout to his cause. He was sincere as sincere can be. But sincerity alone does not guarantee truth. He was entirely devoted to his belief system. But his belief system was entirely wrong. He later describes how he dealt with this.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of Hebrews: as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
In order to win Christ, he had to consider his “blue blood” accreditation as dung. It was over. It was not going to help him move up the corporate ladder anymore. His zeal was now directed toward Christ. And doing this sort of declaration was probably not a one-time occurrence for him. No more so than we can forget big mistakes that we’ve made in the past. But just as Paul had to work at this process, so we too can make that mental 180 degree turn, day by day. We can gradually build the Word of God in our lives that… “we may win Christ.”
That ye put off concerning the former conversation [behavior] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
We may not have persecuted the Church in the past, but we did live according to the deceitful lusts. And the corruption that is in the world is always going to be challenging us. It will try and steal our peace of God. It will try and kill off our life with Christ. It will endeavor to destroy our relationship with our heavenly Father. We must not let it do this. It is a day by day choice.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
As we renew our minds, we make a 180 degree turn from being conformed to this world, to being transformed so that we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
|Return to main page|