Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Heart of Stone

 Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he 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. Acts 9:3-5

A Heart of Stone

In reading through Acts, we read about a man named Stephen that was stoned for standing up for his faith in Jesus and trying to spread the truth to others. Saul was a man who hated the early church and Christians. He makes his first appearance in the Bible at Stephen’s stoning.  He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry. His parents were Pharisees and Saul was possibly in line to be a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish Supreme Court made up of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion. He held the coats for the people who stoned Stephen and persecuted Christians relentlessly.  Everyone around him would have admired his zeal for Judaism, but the life he was living was nothing like Jesus' life.  

One day Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus for the purpose of seeking out Christians and taking them to jail.  Suddenly there was a bright light all around him, blinding him, and he fell to his knees as he heard a voice speaking to him. The voice he heard was God asking Saul why he was persecuting Him. Saul was completely shocked at this strange light and this strange voice who seemed to know him. He asked the voice who he was, and the voice replied I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. The condensed version is that Saul was blind for three days while a home in Damascus. His eyes were closed, but his heart was opened, and He believed. He became a Christian – the very group of people he had made his life’s work to destroy. After three days, Jesus sent a man to find him, and pray for his eyesight to be restored. His eyesight was restored, and he was baptized. Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus with even more fervor than he denied him with. 

It is hard to believe that God would redeem a man who hated and killed Christians. But he did. Saul’s salvation was just important to God than yours and mine. That is the most wonderful news about our loving and merciful God. Here are some things we can learn from Saul’s experience. 

Your Past Does Not Matter To God – Saul was an evil person. Some envied him because of his “religion,” but his heart was stained with murder, rebellion, and hatred for God and His church. God loved Saul anyway and only wanted him to come to salvation. He didn’t care about his past. He already knew everything about Saul’s life anyway. Satan uses and leverages our past against us but God washes it away when we become His children. It doesn’t matter who you were or what you have done, if you will accept His gift, you will be His child. 

Your Current Circumstances Do Not Matter To God – Where were you when you heard the Gospel and knew you needed Christ? Saul was on his way to find Christians, take them to jail, where they would eventually be put to death. Not many of us can say that. It doesn’t matter where you are at this moment, it matters where you are headed after this moment. Repentance is completely turning away from your sin and to God. God takes us the way we are, right now. No matter how much of a mirey mess we are stuck in, God can swoop us out and lift us up to new life. No one is ever too bad or sinful or too far gone for Him. He is almighty God and can handle everything. He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth! (Matthew 28:18

Saul really did have a heart of stone, but God melted it with His love. If a man who hated Christians and the church – and God too – could be saved, then we all can! Saul’s story is so great because it is such a beautiful testimony to us of God’s love, sacrifice, and mercy for us. God can save anyone and use anyone, but only after we have surrendered it to Him.

And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God. And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests? But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. 

Acts 9:20-22

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