This spring, I've had the privilege to laugh, cry, and be challenged by the wonderful women in our Wednesday evening growth group. God is up to great things in our lives, and once again I am reminded through their stories and the Scripture that God has us in His sights and on His mind.
On a recent Wednesday evening, while reading Acts, we were introduced to Saul. The story of Saul's spiritual transformation is one of my favorites. Saul was on God's mind, and I love how his story unfolds.
Acts 9 begins with Saul persecuting the followers of Jesus. Verse 1 says, "He went to the highest priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem."
Saul was incredibly knowledgeable about Scripture, having studied it from a young age; he had been mentored by some of the best teachers Judaism had to offer. Interestingly, this did not help him see his need for Jesus.
One day, on his way to Damascus, Saul was blinded by a light, and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Saul replied, "Who are You, Lord?" to which the Lord replied, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
I think, deep down, Saul believed he was doing the right thing in condemning the "Jesus movement." He was living by the laws he had been taught to follow, but when a better way came along, he wasn't able to recognize it.
There are situations in all our lives which could be seen as "persecuting Jesus." Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "...Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me." We think we are doing things the right way, but in reality, it's OUR way and not HIS way. His way is love; His way is grace; His way is forgiveness; and His way is understanding.
When we are unkind to ourselves and those around us, we are in effect persecuting Jesus. We are rejecting the grace that Christ has made available through His work on the cross.
The truth is that, but for the grace of God, all of our lives would be just like Saul's - filled with hate, threats, and violence against good people. Instead, we have the joy of not being condemned to a life of guilt. "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). Because of God's grace, we should be showering the freedom of Christ on ourselves and others. Refuse to submit to the yoke of guilt and condemnation. We have been freed!
After his transformation, Saul states in I Corinthians 2, "And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." I hope we can trust less and less in "lofty wisdom" and more and more in the grace of Jesus. Living in His grace brings unity and understanding to our relationships.
The women in my small group bring with them a vast array of life experience, but Jesus is the great leveler. There is nowhere else in this life where we can gather around a table as equals and cry over loss, laugh about life, love each other, and in parting, point each other toward hope. We are no longer identified by our past but by our redemption! While the struggle will always exist for us to keep living in that freedom, at least we know it's there and available to us. Each one of us is on His mind and in His sights.
As you celebrate the resurrection this Easter, my prayer is that you too would experience a resurrection in your heart - whether it's the first or the hundredth time. Accept the freedom that came from the cross and extend the knowledge of that freedom to those around you. Let's decide to know nothing except Jesus Christ and live out our short time here on this earth covered by His glorious grace.
Guest Blog written by Vanessa Gallego
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