Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Encountering Christ Jesus

(submitted by Kerry Patton)
…and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” Acts 9:4-6
Into the Fire
Anyone who has ever touched a hot stove, or sat on a vinyl seat in the Summertime heat does not have to be told about the experience of heat. Oh, we may debate how hot it is on a given day, or how it was hotter back when we were young, but when one bears the scars of having been burned, the debate is suddenly over. 
We can teach our children that some things are hot…but they are instantly transformed from being a believer that a thing is hot, to one who KNOWS that a thing is hot that moment when they first make the mistake of touching the muffler of a running engine or lingering over the flame of a candle too long. That personal experience cannot be debated, nor refuted, for one’s personal encounter with the realities of what it is that is hot changes everything.
Who Are You Lord?
History records Saul as a man dedicated to the extermination of the faith movement which had come to be known as “The Way.”  Acts chapter 9 tells the account of Saul traveling toward the city of Damascus with letters in hand from the Jewish High Priest which gave Saul the authority to essentially arrest any followers of Jesus, and bring them bound back to Jerusalem…No doubt for judgement and probable execution.
Along the way, however, Saul had…an encounter…with Jesus himself.  It seems that this experience was so powerful that Saul fell to the ground and was stricken blind.  From this vulnerable posture, he conversed with Christ and learned firsthand that the rumored resurrection of Jesus was no rumor at all.  Saul also learned that he had been wrongly persecuting Jesus and his followers.  And the final instruction Saul was given was to get up, go into the city, and await further instructions.  It should be noted, that following this encounter, everything changed for Saul.  He would thereafter be known as Paul, would be commissioned as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and would spend the rest of his days evangelizing for the very faith he had sought to destroy.
Personal Encounters
While most followers of Jesus have not had a conversion experience as epic as Paul’s Damascus road experience, being a follower of Jesus does make the presumption that we are not merely living out our days as believers in Jesus.  Rather, our accepting the Lordship of Jesus suggests that we have encountered him in some capacity that has caused us to abandon all other gods and live for him.  Furthermore, it takes for granted that we are seeking after Jesus… and thereby encountering him regularly in our lives through the reading of scripture, personal prayer, and corporate and private worship.  And finally, we encounter Jesus as we love, and serve others, and communicate the Gospel to them as well. 
Alister McGrath is a Northern Irish theologian, priest, intellectual historian, scientist, and Christian apologist.  Concerning the communication of our own encounters with Jesus to others, he states:
“Part of our great privilege as Christians is being able to share with other people what it is that we find about the Gospel that has drawn us out of the world and made us realize that there is none greater and more wonderful than the Living God.”
I encourage you this day and every day to pursue an encounter with Jesus.  Find him in your Bible reading.  Experience him in prayer. Worship him freely and with abandon.  And then love others as he has loved you.  Feel free to tell them why you have chosen Jesus!  Who knows, they too may encounter Jesus as well.

Father God, George Whitfield said of his preaching that he would “light himself aflame so that others could watch him burn.” Let us burn this day with the fires of your presence and love in Christ.  May our sights be set not on ourselves, but on you…such that others might look with us to see who or what had captured our gaze.  Let us encounter Jesus this day and be like Paul…forever transformed.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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