Words From A Reformed Terrorist…

 

When traveling through Greece, the Greek Isles, and Ephesus, Turkey, our main theme is “following in the footsteps of Paul.” Who is Paul? Who was Paul? Do I really want to follow in HIS footsteps?

I grew up learning Paul wrote much of the New Testament of the Holy Bible… the “letters” to the churches he had planted and mentored leaders for, before going to God’s next destination for him. In preparing for my first “Journeys of Paul” trip, I read “To Live Is Christ,” by Beth Moore. I have never seen Paul in the same way since.

I always thought of “Paul,” (his Roman name,) or “Saul,” (his Hebrew name,) as an amazing Spiritual Giant! Who could ever walk in HIS footsteps, accomplishing all he did in transforming the world of Christianity from his days as a peer of Jesus, until this very day?

Paul and Jesus lived in the same time period, in the same part of the world. Jesus was all about his mission of offering freedom from the Jewish law and a relationship with God based on love and grace. Paul heard about Jesus, and his radical followers who were attempting to shake the very foundation of the Jewish religion by challenging its laws, and inviting all to a new “Way” of love and grace. Having been trained extensively in the law under the best of the best teachers in Jerusalem, Paul made it his business to eradicate the world of these infectious persons.

The best way I can describe Paul before meeting Jesus, is that he was a terrorist. Take time to read the book of Acts in the New Testament, and understand that he made it his main business to track down the Christ followers and to have them either killed or imprisoned. He was “helping,” God by purging the earth of those who were following the new way.

Then, Paul met Jesus! Read the account in Acts 9. While on his way to Damascus to round-up more of these Christ followers for imprisonment, Jesus himself called out to Paul in a blinding light, and asked why Paul was persecuting Him?

The resulting meeting between Paul and Jesus, changed history.

Ancient Ephesus, Turkey

When I read Paul’s words in the New Testament in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, Turkey that say:

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. (Ephesians 1: 11-12 Message Version)

 …I realize that Paul discovered God had a plan for his life long before he (Paul) even knew it. And I wonder…how did Paul ever forgive himself for all the innocent persons he sent to imprisonment or death?

Theater in Ancient Ephesus, Turkey

When Paul wrote…

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:10 Message Version)

…I realize God has created each of us with something very special to do, something that only we as individuals can uniquely accomplish. Paul wrote from experience. He knew he didn’t deserve God’s grace and yet here he was…forgiven and being used by God to change the world!

So much to wrap my head around:

God can use anybody to work out His plan and purposes!

Who am I to judge whether or not someone has value?

Are the worst of the worst salvageable?

God sees the potential in all of us.

I must discover the gifts God has given uniquely to me, to change the world.

I must help my children and grandchildren understand that they are God’s treasured and unique creation and have a purpose in life.

 

If there was hope for Paul…there is hope for anyone to change!

Finally, as Paul stood under Nero’s sentence to death in Rome, by torture, one of his last proclamations was, “To live is Christ but to die is gain!”

Paul was transformed, Paul had hope, and Paul was used to change the world.

 

Linda GingerichA Transformissional learning from my journey’s in the footsteps of Paul.

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