Am I Paul or Saul

Few people in the Bible undergo such a powerful transformation as Saul of Tarsus. He goes from being a villain to a superhero of the faith. And just like all the other people of the Bible narrative, we are meant to learn from his story. We can use the life of Bible characters as a mirror into our own souls. So let’s do that. Let’s ask the question: am I Paul or a Saul?

As you most likely know, Saul’s identity changes from Saul to that of Paul. Initially, Saul is a man who can be characterized as zealous for the things of God. That is one trait that never changes. However, the way in which He is zealous does change. Most of what we know about Saul of Tarsus is that he was driven to destroy the following of Jesus, even if that meant murder. Of course, Saul would not have considered it murder, but murderers rarely do. He was a man who attempted to keep the letter of the law. But in doing so, it never penetrated to his heart. Saul, like many, was religious outwardly, yet cold inwardly. Saul’s motivation was for a code, a set of laws, with little to no regard for the meaning behind the laws. His so-called love for God didn’t translate to his love for others. A clear contradiction that should alarm anyone of the faith. He idealized the image that Jesus spoke against when addressing the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law. They were white-washed tombs. Beautiful on the outside yet full of dead men’s bones. Saul was full of pride, angry, and vengeful. But all of that would change.

When Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (to imprison or even have followers of Jesus killed) his life was turned on its head (see Acts 9). This experience brought with it a crucial lesson, that Saul (now Paul) would never forget. The physical blindness that Paul experienced was a clear representation of his spiritual blindness. His complete powerlessness and dependency on others brought about a humility that would utterly reshape his life. As I mentioned before, Paul would remain zealous after his transformation. But instead of going a manhunt throughout the near east to have people arrested or to oversee their executions, he would go on a different sort of manhunt. Paul turned his passion for God into a deep desire to see salvation spread. Instead of condemning people, he sought to see people set free. Instead of judging harshly, he preached love and sacrifice for the needs of others. Instead of living a self-focused ‘religious’ life, he lived one absent of self, fully committed to making Jesus known. Instead of living as a hypocrite before the law, Paul would walk in the freedom Christ brings, demonstrating what a resurrected and born-again life can look like.

When I look closely at the life of Saul becoming Paul, I have to ask myself, which one am I more like? We all have areas of pride and hypocrisy. We all have moments of being judgmental and cold. We all have times we care a little too much about how others view us rather than nurturing our hearts. But…are those exceptions or more of the rule? It all begins with an honest and humble approach to the question. Since humility is the root of a sincere heart. In his address to the Romans, Paul mentioned being a living sacrifice. In his letter to the Galatians, he said that he no longers exists but only Christ who lives in him. When writing to the Colossians, Paul said that Christ is our very life and that everything we do and say should be done for Jesus. And the reality is, that Paul lived that out. Saul’s life was full of Saul. Paul’s life was full of Jesus. And the contrast couldn’t have been more obvious. If my life is more about myself than it is about Jesus, then the answer has already been provided. Lord, may the scales fall from our eyes just as they did for Saul. May humility increase as we diminish and Jesus takes the spotlight in our lives.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Follow the Leader

31Wci55k5UL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

                                                                        -Luke 6:46-49 (ESV)

We can all be inspired by stories, movies, music, etc…but inspiration can fade. We can be moved to tears or even moved to action, but inspiration rarely lasts. Think of a movie, book, or testimony that inspired you. Think of one that emotionally moved you. Now think about how many of those are still affecting how you live your life today in a big way. I’m willing to bet, not many. The reason why is that inspiration is mostly surface deep, unless it gives way to being captivated. Chapter three of the book draws out the comparisons between inspiration and captivation and how that defines how we relate to people and things in our lives.

The question that Jesus poses in verse 46 of Luke chapter 6, is not one that suggests a lack of inspiration on behalf of the audience He’s addressing. Look no further than the title prescribed to Jesus by His audience. They called Him Lord, and that was not a title to be taken lightly. We give lordship to things or people that captivate us. Whether it’s an addiction, a near and dear possession, or a relationship, we place priority and power in the hands of that which has stolen our hearts. Giving lordship to anything other than Jesus is summed up by saying we prefer the flesh over the Spirit. And anything and anyone who takes preference over Him has more authority in our lives than He does.

By nature, humans gravitate towards submission. Sound crazy? Think about it. We either submit ourselves to our own selfish desires, to cultural norms, to a relationship, to money, to fame, or we submit ourselves to Christ. No matter the choice we make, it’s a choice of submission. We submit to holiness or worldliness. Romans chapter six describes it as either being a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.

The title of Christian means to be of Christ or to follow Christ. In all actuality, this is a title that is demonstrated by a person’s life, not given to them by someone else or even by themselves. This isn’t about the age old debate of faith-based vs. works-based salvation. It’s not really a debate though. The bible never says that a person in saved by works. It does say all throughout that faith is what saves us. As a result of our faith we are driven into a deeper pursuit of Christ. That’s where the works play themselves out. Has anyone ever told you to love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life? It’s the same with following Jesus. We love Him and love following Him so it ceases to be about doing work and is more like doing what we love for Who we love. Christ becomes Lord and leader of our life. Our life then becomes about following The Leader.

Follow Him because He is a way better leader than we could ever be.

Peace and blessings in Christ!

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)