Can people actually change? Can a hater become the poet of love? Can a murderer become someone who proclaims life? Can a wicked, ruthless terrorist become righteous, tender, and new? Our culture swings back and forth about these questions. Some claim that with good medication and a good psychologist, a killer can become a safe, responsible citizen. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors often retaliate with concrete facts and horror stories—facts that say that human nature is fixed—good and bad.
In his second volume addressed to Theophilos, Dr. Luke tells Saul’s conversion story three times, and it gives his answer to the questions about whether hardened violent men can be made new.
In Acts 8:3 when Luke pictured Saul making house-to-house searches, dragging out both men and women, and throwing them in prison, just because they followed Jesus, no one would believe you if you said that in the 21st century this would be the man known today as St. Paul.
It’s one of the most dramatic conversions of all time. In blinding light the resurrected, glorified Jesus confronted the persecutor, the man thought he was the righteous, zealous “Phinehas” (note: Numbers 25:1-13). Instead, Jesus exposed him as a hardened, heartless rebel, the kind of man Stephen had preached against in his defense before the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out threats and terror against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the High Priest and requested letters from him that he could take to Damascus to the synagogues. If he found any followers to the Way, these letters would allow him to bind them and lead them to Jerusalem.
While he was traveling, about to come to Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you , Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. But get up and go into the city. There I will tell you what you must do.’
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless. They heard the voice but did not see anyone. So Saul got up from the ground and when he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see. His traveling companions led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he couldn’t see and did not eat or drink.” Acts 9:1-9
LORD, help me to never stop believing that you can give someone a totally new heart and that only you can bring the lightning. I thank you today that both Stephen and Saul are in Heaven, they are brothers, and they are cheering us on as we continue their mission to bring Jesus to others.
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