Lessons from Paul Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
LESSON No. 2: GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS.
We have seen that Paul was a religious man, but in spite of that, he was also a mean man. The verses we read show clearly that he harassed and imprisoned Christians without any pains of conscience. When Ananias was told to go see Paul, he was shocked. He was quick to object to this request, and explained that he had heard of the evil this man had done to the saints in Jerusalem. So, Paul was well known for the cruelty he had done to Christians.
Paul’s testimony in 1 Timothy 1:15, reveals that after he was saved on the Damascus Road, he became aware of how cruel and sinful be had been. He told Timothy, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” This verse proves that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” He didn’t come to be the greatest teacher the world has ever known, although He was that. He didn’t come to set a moral example, but He did do that. He came into the world to save sinners. When you give your testimony, don’t tell people how wonderful you are or all you have accomplished. Tell them you were a sinner and Christ saved you. That’s what’s important.
When Paul says he is the chief of sinners, he’s not kidding; he is just being truthful. He was the chief of sinners; he cursed at the Lord Jesus and he meant every foul word. But, thanks to God, Paul could say, “I’ve been saved.” Friends, the Lord Jesus came to save sinners, and if you say, “I don’t think Christ can save me—I’m the worst,” you are wrong. Paul was the chief of sinners, and the chief of sinners has already been saved. So you will be able to be saved if you want to. The decision rests with you. All you need to do is turn to Christ and He will do the rest.
The story of the Bible is that Jesus loves all of us. I’ll give you three examples from God’s Word. In the 19th chapter of Matthew, there is the story of Zacchaeus. Verse 10 is the highlight of the experience of Zacchaeus, because his life points up what Jesus meant when He said, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus came to him, sought him, and saved him. Although He was surrounded by a great crowd of people, Jesus took time for individuals, and He even saw a man in a tree! He is still the seeking Savior, but now He uses your eyes and your lips.
In the 4th chapter of John, there is the story of the woman at the well. There, we are told that perhaps in order to avoid the respectable townswomen who filled their water jars at sunrise and sunset, she came to the well at noon, the hottest hour of the day. This immoral woman, who had had five husbands, now lived with a man who was not her husband. When Jesus purposely passed through Samaria on His way to Galilee, He met and spoke to the woman at Jacob’s Well, near the city of Sychar, breaking several major social rules. He disregarded these social barriers when He talked with the woman. He revealed Himself as the greatly anticipated Messiah, offering forgiveness, redemption, and new life. She drank from His cup of living water, and then she ran back to town to the very ones who despised her. There she proclaimed with unembarrassed excitement the arrival of the promised Messiah.
The thief who was crucified with Christ is another instance of God’s great love (Luke 23). Actually, there were two thieves crucified along with Jesus, and in the beginning, both of them joined the crown in criticizing Him. One of the thieves continued to taunt Jesus until the end, but the other came to believe in Jesus after hanging beside the Lord for six hours. Jesus told this thief “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Jesus gave his life for that thief, just as sure as He did it for us.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than to give his life for another.” It wasn’t the Romans or the Jews who put Jesus on that cross; it was love. Today, we can all sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” There are no unlovable people in Jesus’ eyes.
Lesson No. 3: When God has His way, lives are dramatically changed.
When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he made some important and life-changing discoveries.
First, He came to believe that his religion was out-of-date. He discovered that God did not stop His revelations to man with the last prophet; Malachi. Jesus was the one who God had sent into the world to save sinful men and sinful women. How could he continue to follow a religion that denied Jesus?
Second, he discovered that his zeal for God was only hurting God. He had once believed that he was doing God a great service by his efforts to stamp out this new sect of Christians. When Jesus saved Paul, He also changed his perception of God. He no longer had to work so very hard to appease God’s anger. Now, he knew that God loved him, that his sins were forgiven, and that he was going to spend eternity with the Savior.
Third, he discovered that Jesus was alive. He wasn’t dead, as the religious leaders said. Now he knew that Jesus was seated at God’s side, and that someday He would return.
Fourth, he discovered that Jesus had a job for him to do. He could not continue being the great persecutor of the Church; and instead, God called him to be His missionary to the Gentiles. He would write most of the New Testament, start many churches, train preachers and win multitudes to the Lord.
Talk about a rude awakening! He was changed completely and forever, when He met Jesus. But it’s always been that way. Jesus changes lives. I’ll give you two examples from the Bible.
First, there was the demon possessed man who lived in the tombs with the dead, and terrorized everyone that came near him. Jesus radically changed this hard case, when He journeyed to the country of the Gadarenes to help this demon-possessed man. Jesus cast the demons out of him, and we are told that after that he sat quietly, and his mind was right. He was so grateful that he wanted to go along with Jesus, but Jesus told him that he had an assignment for him to do. He wanted him to be His witness to the cities in this area. He must have been a great witness, because when Jesus returned to the area, he found many who believed in him. I believe that it was the great change in this man that caused people to listen to him. When he told them what Jesus had done, they responded because of the great change in him.
And, next, let me tell you about a woman named Mary Magdalene. Mary lived in Magdala which was a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately, she suffered from demon possession; but, when Mary met Jesus face to face, it changed her life. Jesus cast from Mary the seven evil demonic spirits that had ruled and ruined her life. After she was healed, Mary became a devoted follower of Christ. She faithfully followed Jesus throughout His ministry. Even when nearly everyone fled with fear after Christ’s arrest, Mary lingered lovingly all the way to the cross and witnessed His painful death.
Someone might ask, “Does Jesus change people today.” Well, He changed me, and many others in this room. And He will change anyone who will confess their sins and believe in Him.
When Paul was brought before King Agrippa, his life was in danger; but, he was not afraid. He said, “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Paul was referring to the vision of Jesus, the Macedonian Call, when Jesus told him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul used his great zeal and knowledge to spread the gospel. Through his preaching many men and women had their lives changed. Even King Agrippa said that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian. But almost is not good enough. Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, once said, “Almost persuaded to be a Christian is like the man who was almost pardoned, but he was hanged; like the man who was almost rescued, but he was burned in the house. A man that is almost saved is damned.”
God can still change anyone’s life. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. God is the only one who can save you. You can’t save yourself, because you’re not good enough. But, thank God, no one is too far gone. Please join me in prayer, and let’s thank God for saving us and changing us.