“You know about the things that I did before, when I obeyed the Jewish rules. I caused very much trouble against God’s church. I tried to destroy those people completely. I obeyed the Jewish rules better than many other Jews who were my friends. I tried very much to obey the ideas that our Jewish ancestors taught. But God had chosen me to serve him even before I was born. He chose me to be his servant because he is very kind. He decided to show his Son clearly to me, so that I could tell the Gentiles about him. When God chose me to do that, I did not talk about it with any person. Nor did I go to Jerusalem to see Christ’s apostles there. Those men were already his apostles before I was. But I did not go to talk to them. Instead, I went immediately to the place called Arabia. Later, I went back to Damascus city.
Then, 3 years later, I did go to Jerusalem. I stayed there with Christ’s apostle Peter for 15 days, so that he could teach me.”
Who doesn’t love everything about Paul’s story? But specifically, in this passage, his unmatched diligence in placing in highest honor the new role and mission given to him by God himself. From the day he was stopped by Jesus on the road to Damascus, his heart was opened to the truth and gospel, and he took full ownership of this new and changed perspective. He valued this responsibility enough to not simply take the information and run without substantiated experience. Instead, he went away to Arabia and did not return to Jerusalem for three years. And even upon returning to Jerusalem, he spent another 15 days with Peter who could continue to teach him about this message of hope. He took the time to reflect on his experience and make sense of how it was different than the prestige religious education he had earned and relied on for so long.
Isn’t it wild how we can spend our entire lives being educated, trained, and accustomed to what we are taught as truth and fact? And then, there along our content little path – interrupts Jesus. And the world as we know it is flipped upside down. Or maybe our world was already upside down to begin with….
What we’ve grown to believe may be true, partially true, or not true at all. It is all dependent on the source. If our beliefs have been shaped by lies and bitter viewpoints, we can spend years unlearning what took minutes to learn. Sometimes, what we need to unravel in our hearts and minds is more important than the walls we’ve constructed to protect our compromised thoughts. For a lot of us, these walls may consist of accomplishments, commitments, titles, you name it… These things are not necessarily bad, as it is good to set goals and plans for your life. But sometimes we can let these things become our identity. We can fabricate walls to protect ourselves from healthy exposure. Exposure from the presumption that there is more to your story, more to your purpose, more to you as an individual child of God. Exposure to the fact that the creator of the universe could love you more than you’re capable of understanding.
But this kind of unraveling takes care, diligence, and time. And we must take the truths of what God tells us and value it as the very lamp unto our feet and light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). Because, my dear friends, with this truth, and only by the truth will we ever be set free (John 8:32). Free to be the unique part of the body of Christ that we are called and destined to be.
Free to have our beliefs flipped upside down,
Free to allow our former lives to be radically changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and
Free to convey with urgency this same opportunity for any and all who would dare to believe.
Lord, help us to grab hold of your truth as strongly as Paul did. Help us to treat it with the highest esteem, and help us to be patient in the time it takes to unravel what may not be your truth in our hearts and minds.