“Evangelism” can be a dirty word.
Consider this critique of Mother Teresa, “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity.” Yes, you read that correctly. The idea that a Christian might want to share their faith with others can completely undermine a lifetime devoted to improving the lot of some of the world’s most desperate people.
Despite critics who view evangelism, or proselytizing, as they call it, as a negative behaviour, it remains core to following Jesus. Whether we consider the imperative of the Great Commission, or the Lost Parables of Luke 15, we see God’s desire that people who don’t know Him come to know Him. He desires the lost to be saved. He longs for the sinner to be cleansed. He hopes for the distant to draw near to Him. And he uses Christians to accomplish His purposes.
When many people think of evangelism, we think of Mormon missionaries, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, constantly doorknocking neighborhoods and trying to have life changing conversations with us at the most inconvenient moments. Many Christians grew up in churches that regularly doorknocked and many still do.
But not all evangelism requires cold-calling on people and hoping we catch them at a time when we’re not a nuisance and they’re wanting to talk with someone.
If we’re not careful, sharing our faith can seem a lot like a sales job. It’s as though I need to convince you that out of all the life insurance products available on the market, my life insurance is the best one for you… and your family… and your friends. If I do it right, my sales will grow. The company will grow. My commissions will grow. And it really doesn’t matter whether or not I’m telling you the truth, as long as I can get you to believe my life insurance product is the best.
In contrast to this skepticism, Christians share our faith with others because we believe that the message of Jesus is one of life-changing goodness. Having experience God’s goodness, we want others to experience it also. Having seen light in a sea of darkness, we want to point others to that light also. We do this, not to increase our own equity, or to kingdom build, or spiritually colonise other cultures, but because we love others. Because we love other people we want them to experience the best life possible: to experience Jesus.
This week’s sermon looked briefly at two different approaches to making a God difference in people’s lives.
The Apostle Peter
Based on Acts 9:32 it seems that Peter had taken on the task of visiting groups of believers, churches, scattered around Judea and possibly Samaria. No doubt his goal was to encourage these charter members of the Jesus community. In this way Peter contributed to the growth of the church. He participated in implementing Jesus design from Acts 1:8, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Peter had moved from Step 1: Jerusalem, and was now implementing Step 2: Judea and Samaria. In our text Peter finds himself on the coastal plain, and area not given a lot of attention throughout the Gospels. In Acts 10 Peter initiates the final step in Jesus outline: the ends of the earth, as he breaks through the Jew-Gentile barrier by baptizing a Roman.
Peter fits the mold of a typical evangelist. He’s a traveling preacher and as an apostle is able to perform healing miracles that attract a crowd. When he visits a town he preaches about Jesus and we’re told in Acts 9:35 “All those who lived [there] saw [the lame man walking] and turned to the Lord.”
As a preacher who can’t perform healing miracles, I believe there’s still a role for Peters in the work of the church. There’s a need for people to travel to unfamiliar places and tell others about the Good News of Jesus. These may be international missionaries, or domestic church planters, but they’re needed. The lost need to be saved, and the saved need to be taught and encouraged. Peters can do this.
The text next introduces us to Tabitha. She is apparently a woman of means who uses her wealth to “do good and help the poor“, particularly widows. Tabitha didn’t travel. She wasn’t prominent on the speaker circuit. Tabitha achieved influence in her community through her compassion and generosity.
Tabitha was loved so much that when she died, the church sent for the apostle Peter in the hope that he could restore her to life, which he did. After she sat up, “Peter called for the believers, especially the widows…” It’s impossible to know for certain, but I like to think that Tabitha was indiscriminate in selecting the widows and other poor citizens whom she cared for. Then, as she loved her neighbours, the neighbours saw Jesus, came to love him, and became disciples of Jesus. These women may have started out as widows, but because of Tabitha’s generosity they became believers.
Sometimes people dismiss the idea of entering full-time ministry by saying “that’s not for everyone”. And they’re right. But it is for some people. The church still needs Peters. And the 12 year old Peters sitting in churches around the world need others to encourage them. They need spiritual mentors to recognise their faith and gifts and inspire them to use those gifts in God’s service, full-time.
Sometimes when people dismiss the idea of full-time ministry, they say “everyone’s a minister”. And they’re right. The church needs more Tabithas. Sadly, many of those who say this, do very little. Perhaps its because while they recognise that we’re all called to serve we don’t always have clear models of what ministry from the pew looks like. The preachers have taken too much of the limelight. Tabitha provides a model we can all follow. Do good and help the poor. Who knows, you may even bring them to Jesus.
What is the Gospel? In my spiritual environment throughout my life I suspect that the correct answer would often be, “Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, be Baptized, Grow in faith”. However, I want to suggest that while all these items are important, they’re a response to the Gospel, not the Gospel itself.
Since I’m preaching from Acts during June, I thought it would be interesting to study the preaching topics of the apostles throughout Acts. What did these first Gospel preachers emphasise? How does it compare to our emphasis today?
The apostle Peter gives the first “sermon” in Acts 2. From the list above we observe Hear (v37), Believe (v37), Repent (v38), and Baptism (v41). Many people understandably regard verses 37 and 38 as the climax of the sermon. But a close reading of the text reveals that the sermon concludes in v36.
The centre point of the sermon can hardly come after the sermon’s conclusion. Verse 37 actually describes the crowd’s response and v38 shares Peter’s answer to their question. So what is the climax of the sermon?
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Acts 2:36
Humanity killed Jesus. Sin and corruption caused Jesus’ death, “But God raised him from the dead.”
While Jesus’ resurrection gets a lot of attention each year when Easter rolls around, I was surprised to find that resurrection is a constant theme in the preaching found in Acts.
Here’s a list that I’ve compiled from a variety of sermons by various preachers. I may have missed some, but these seem sufficient to establish a theme:
- Peter – Acts 2:24-40 “But God raised him from the dead…”
- Peter – Acts 3:11-26 “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.”
- Peter – Acts 4:10 “whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead…”
- Peter – Acts 5:31 “God exalted him to his own right hand….”
- Stephen – Acts 7:56 “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”
- Peter – Acts 10:23-40 “but God raised him from the dead…”
- Paul – Acts 17:16-34 “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead…”
- Paul – Acts 17:1-4 “The Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead…”
- Paul – Acts 23:6 “I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection …”
- Paul – Acts 24:15 “I have … hope… that there will be a resurrection….”
- Paul – Acts 24:21 “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial…”
- Paul – Acts 25:19 “…a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.”
- Paul – Acts 26:8 “Why should you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?”
- Paul – Acts 26:22-3 “Moses said would happen – that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead…”
There are plenty of Biblical sermons that identify sin and call people to repentance, but they do so within a context of resurrection. Resurrection points beyond the guilt and shame to grace, hope and new life.
While the early preaching on the resurrection served an apologetic function, that wasn’t the sole purpose. Jesus’ resurrection proved that his death wasn’t an accident.
While we’re often tempted to stand at the foot of the cross and beat ourselves up in guilt and regret, Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates that the cross is not the end of the story.
While the cross is vital to the Biblical story, it would be a sorry ending if not for the resurrection. By preaching the resurrection, the apostles presented a positive message that empowered people to move forward in relationship with a risen, Christ.
Jesus’ resurrection fulfills a much greater purpose than proving that life exists after death. If Jesus has been raised, then God’s new world, God’s kingdom has indeed arrived. The resurrection provides a whole new way of viewing the world and life itself. It gives purpose to our lives as we move toward a better tomorrow. If God can overcome death, He can overcome obstacle that confronts His kingdom.
God offers forgiveness of our past. He offers His presence in our present. And he offers us a new, resurrected life in our future.
Because we live in the kingdom of God: a kingdom of life, not death; of light not darkness; of hope not despair. Because we live as priests of God indwelt by the Spirit of God we participate in the mission of God, a mission of bringing new life, new creation to a lifeless world.
Making the resurrection a central element of the Gospel changes the entire story that we present to the world. Choosing to focus on our response to the Gospel, rather than the power of God, dilutes the wonder of the resurrection.
Let’s give the last word to Paul:
Acts 26:20-24 (VOICE)
20 I began in Damascus, then continued in Jerusalem, then throughout the Judean countryside, then among the outsiders—telling everyone they must turn from their past and toward God and align their deeds and way of life with this new direction. 21 So then, this is my crime. This is why my Jewish opponents seized me that day in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 God has helped me right up to this very moment, so I can stand here telling my story to both the humble and the powerful alike. I only say what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Anointed One must suffer, and then, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to both Jews and outsiders.
Festus (interrupting): 24 You’ve gone crazy, Paul! You’ve read one book too many and have gone insane!
I suspect most Christians know what happens in Acts 2. We might not know what happens in Acts 13, or Luke 7, but we know Acts 2. It’s commonly known as the birth of the church. However, even those familiar with Acts 2 emphasise different portions of the long chapter. While Pentecostals focus on the first 13 verses the Church of Christ focuses on v38.
Interestingly, I don’t know anyone that focuses on the actual day itself: Pentecost. Or if anyone knows what Pentecost actually meant. We’ve turned Pentecost into a Christian festival and forgotten the original roots.
I’m indebted to my friend Bobby Valentine for his excellent blog post on the feast of Pentecost and it’s relevance to the events of Acts 2. I encourage you to check it out!
- Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
- Their harvest in their new land.
- Renewal of covenant – The festival was held in the 3rd month and the 10 Commandments (Covenant) were given in the 3rd month. (Ex. 19:3-5)
Unlike other visits to the Temple that may have related to personal atonement or worship, the Festival of Weeks involved the whole household. The household would travel together to participate in this celebration at the Temple. In this sense it was a celebration that incorporated equality and inclusiveness before God.
And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.(Deuteronomy 16:11)
When the apostle Peter begins his sermon he quotes Joel 2:28-32. This passage also portrays an image of the future kingdom of God that promotes equality and inclusiveness.
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)
Understanding the nature of the Pentecost celebration helps us see that the quotation from Joel isn’t an accident. God chose Pentecost as the day to pour out his Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples because the event fulfills Pentecost.
Is this how you picture the kingdom of God? A place where everyone has a role in serving Him? Notice how inclusive this description in Acts 2 is. I wonder how prepared we are for this. Do we let our sons and daughters know that we see the Spirit of God in them? Do we encourage our young and old men? Do we equip God’s servants for their work?
What if Pentecost came and no one noticed?
What if we took our talented teens and young adults and praised them for their gifts and abilities and helped them focus on school and social activities? What would it look like if we as a church made a point of equipping our youth for ministry for allowing the Spirit to prophesy through them?
What if Pentecost came and our young and old men were focused on their careers. What if we celebrated each of their promotions and professional accomplishments, but overlooked steps of spiritual growth in their lives? What would it look like to honor the visions and dreams the Spirit gives them?
What if Pentecost came and God’s servants were so task-oriented that the spiritual nature of our tasks was forgotten? What would it look like to equip and train each other to see God’s Spirit working through us in the menial tasks? What would it look like to prepare each person to fulfill the Spirit’s mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus?
Because that’s what comes next. The Holy Spirit is poured upon the disciples and they immediately call the city of Jerusalem to repentance while proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. The Holy Spirit equips us all for mission. There’s great equality in this task. It’s not a special commission for the minister or elders, or other people. It’s for all of us.
Bobby includes this great line in his article, “[Jews] came far and wide, confessing with their sons and daughters, the old and the young, the slaves and the free – standing before the Lord as equal human beings – that God had been faithful. He has always been faithful. That he will always be faithful. That we standing in his Presence is proof of his covenant.”
This is the mission the Holy Spirit equips us to undertake. We proclaim God’s past, present and future faithfulness to His Creation. We stand in His Presence inviting people to enter into a covenant with God.
Which brings us to v38. Baptism represents a sealing of a deal. An acceptance of God’s covenant. In that short moment immersed in the water each person is equal as a child of God. Regardless of age, sex, race, height, weight, history or future, at that moment they testify to God’s faithfulness. Immersed in the water. Immersed in Christ. We experience deliverance, blessing, and a new covenant.
On that Pentecost day these historical themes from God’s relationship with Israel all converged with the baptism of 3,000, the forgiveness of sins, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. And with each baptism since then the church proclaims salvation for all, the faithfulness of God, and the hopeful joy of covenant with our Creator.
Pentecost: Not a chronological accident, but a vision of God’s kingodm that the church has often overlooked.
Ordinary is an interesting word. It was a word once used for some of Christ’s disciples (see Acts 4:13). It usually denotes “nothing special,” “average,” “normal.” Nothing to see here, so just keep moving on.
An ordinary story? I’ll pass. Give me the extra-ordinary; the dramatic; the one filled with exciting special affects; the tearjerkers. Those move the needle. Those create blockbusters and best sellers. Ordinary is just not interesting.
Until it is.
Until ordinary reveals something else.
Those Jesus followers in Acts 4 certainly were ordinary guys without any special pedigree, but yet there was something quite different about them.
What was it?
It was noted that they “had been with Jesus.” Jesus has a way of making ordinary interesting.
I am not sure that LaVelle Travis (L.T.) Blevins would ever be considered just ordinary, but his story has ordinary beginnings. Born during the Great Depression in the small backwater Arkansas delta community of Gordneck, L.T. grew up like so many others of his era—poor but happily surrounded by a loving family.
Again like thousands of his contemporaries, L.T. answered his nation’s call and served in the U.S. Navy during both WWII and the Korean conflict. He married his sweetheart, began a family, started a successful small business and worked diligently to provide and care for them.
On the surface—this describes an ordinary life. It was the kind lived all across America. Yes, he lost his first wife too soon. He retired early to care for her. Later he had serious health concerns of his own from which he was not expected to survive. But really that is all fairly common. It is normal. L.T. Blevins? Not much interesting to see here, so let’s just keep moving on.
But before you do, I ask you to look a little closer. There is more to this ordinary story. Remember how I stated that Jesus has a way of making the ordinary interesting? If you spend any time around L.T. Blevins it becomes obvious. He has “been with Jesus.”
He just turned eighty-eight years old. The ever-present twinkle in his eye reveals a joyful soul shaped through the years by his relationship with Christ. He has this wonderful adventurous side that once led him to wrangle horses on the back lots of Hollywood movie westerns after WWII; ride across the country on a Harley knucklehead motorcycle; fly (and crash) without lessons or licenses in small planes; and physically build a lake house with his second wife, Kathleen, while in his seventies. He has all kinds of extraordinary stories to share.
But his most extraordinary stories are about being with Jesus. They are about his beloved Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Arkansas; it’s beginnings; it’s growth; it’s ministry. He has been here through it all—serving as teacher, shepherd, cook, missionary, and everything in between.
Always here. Always faithful.
He reared his family here—now into their fourth generation. He carried the burden of leadership. He made personal and financial sacrifices for the Levy family. He mentored the current generation of leaders. He did not waver. He never created any drama. He is a peacemaker, a visionary and a great friend to preachers.
He has been with Jesus. Just an ordinary man in some ways, made extraordinary through faith in the Christ; just another boy from the Arkansas countryside, but one whose legacy of quiet dedication to God, family and church continues to shape and influence them.
He is a part of what has been tagged “the greatest generation.” Great—because of sacrifice, hard work and personal integrity. Once this was just considered ordinary and normal. It was simply how you were supposed to be.
It certainly does describe L.T. But that is not why this “ordinary” man is great. Rather:
The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. – Matthew 23:11-12
The power in this story really is found in the Christ and in the good, humble man who allowed Jesus to do the extraordinary within him.
L.T. inspires me. Throughout his life he just consistently did the right thing without any big fuss. It is an ordinary story, but it is not. It is a story of quiet and consistent faith lived out through the normal variations of life, but never wavering.
I remember one summer camp session where several people shared their faith stories with the campers. All were dramatic and meaningful. One brother showed the needle marks on his arm and gave God the glory for empowering him to overcome his addiction. It certainly was a powerful story.
But there is also the need to share the power in stories absent of all of this—a story of faith that never ventured away. That is the power I see in L.T. Blevin’s story and in his person and that is why it is so meaningful to me.
It is the kind of life I wish to live and for my children—just consistently being with Jesus everyday in a normal, ordinary, drama-free, yet incredible kind of way.
Danny Dodd is the preaching minister for the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, AR. He is originally from Greenville, MS. His wife is Terri, originally from Melbourne, AR. Their daughters are Taylor (13) and Jordan (9). Danny also has served at the Gateway church in Pensacola, FL; as a resident missionary in Vilnius, Lithuania; and in churches in Mississippi. He writes occasionally on his blog: https://dannydodd.wordpress.com/
This week I’m following up on last week’s post that you can read HERE.
A friend of mine suggested an additional phase that I agree I need to include. This means we now have “SIX Phases of Transformation”.
The additional phase is “God Initiates“. This phase slots in as the first phase in the cycle.
In Acts 9 we see this phase clearly as Jesus appears to Saul while he travels to Damascus. He doesn’t appear to Saul as a gentle whisper, but in a blinding (literally) light from heaven and with an audible, bodiless voice. “Saul, can you hear me now?”
God had plans for Saul and he wasn’t going to sit around twiddling his thumbs hoping Saul would come to this realisation on his own. No, God stepped in and personally called Saul in a very attention getting fashion.
Not everyone receives such a personal call to discipleship from God. But God works in everyone’s life prior to our acknowledging Him. God Initiates. He Originates. He is the original Cause.
Our lives have always been a reaction to God’s action.
- God created. How would humanity respond? With disobedience.
- God cursed but preserved humanity. How would they respond? Cain kills Able and cycle of violence is initiated.
- God planned a Flood as judgement but gave a means of escape. How would humanity respond? With apathy.
- God promised relationship with Abraham and his descendents.
- God entered a covenant with Israel at Sinai. Will Israel be faithful? Increasingly, no.
- God ultimately sends his Son to Earth. How will his people respond? They kill him.
- God allows Jesus to die as a sacrifice for the world’s sins. Will people respond? Some do, some don’t.
- God raises Jesus from the grave. Will people believe? Some do, some don’t.
On a personal level people respond to the Gospel as a result of asking, “How does God’s gracious act of dying for my sins impact my life? God offers me forgiveness. Do I accept it?”
Even apart from the meta story of creation – cross- redemption, God inserts himself into our lives in a way that opens us up to the need of relationship with Him. I recently talked with a guy who was motivated to pursue relationship with God because he watched The Bible tv series. Hundreds of thousands of people watched that series but only a small percentage were prompted to study the Bible. God was already working in this guy’s life so that he was open to hearing the message of the Gospel. Perhaps six months earlier he would have simply rolled his eyes at another Christian TV show and changed the channel.
I believe that God in providential ways connects His people with those seeking Him. I don’t see God as a grand puppet master for all people all over the earth. But God inserts Himself in people’s lives at moments when they need Him. Sometimes God initiates by placing a person in a Christian family. Sometimes God initiates by exposing a person to a Christian teacher, or neighbour, or friend. Sometimes God initiates because a church in the community offers a ministry that an individual desperately needs. Sometimes God initiates by sending a teacher to the wilderness to meet a man in a chariot. (Acts 8:26-29)
So here’s what the updated diagram looks like:
For an alternative approach you might also appreciate this post by my friend James Wood as he reflects on the book The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay.
The Apostle Paul displays a life of spiritual transformation as dramatic as anyone in Scripture. This week I highlight 5 points about his conversion experience that may give us a different perspective on our call to follow Christ.
Acts 9 records the conversion of Saul from “Persecutor of the Christians” to “Champion of the Gospel of Jesus”. In studying this chapter I noticed what I’m calling “5 Phases of Transformation”. I don’t see these phases as exhaustive, or absolutely sequential. In fact, I’m not even sure that “phases” is the best word. Other, perhaps better, options include: stages, moments, events, or elements. They are definitely NOT “steps”!!
From the chart you’ll notice that each phase involves a person, or actor, and an action. I’ll expand on each phase below.
A Christian Accepts (Acts 9:10-17)
The opening words of v17 are tremendously important to this story. “Then Ananias went…” Ananias was a Christian who knew that Saul was coming to Damascus to persecute him and those who worshiped with him. Ananias seems to naturally fear and dislike Saul. But when God tells Ananias to “Go” because Saul “is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name…” Ananias accepts God’s mission.
Ananias also accepts Saul. The first two words he says to Saul acknowledge Saul’s submission to God, “Brother Saul…”. Ananias is no Jonah reluctantly sharing a message of Good News. Ananias overcame his fears and preconceived ideas about Saul to call him brother, sit with him and discuss Jesus, baptize him and welcome him into the body of Christ. Verse 19 concludes with Saul hanging out with the local disciples. It’s reasonable to conclude that Ananias was also responsible for integrating the reborn Saul into the local church there in Damascus.
Unless Christians open our hearts and put away our prejudices so that we willingly accept sinful people of all stripes into our presence, those people will never experience the love of God. Saul experienced Jesus on the highway between Jerusalem and Damascus. Today most people don’t meet Jesus on the highway. They meet Jesus when they meet his disciples.
A Sinner Repents (Acts 9:3-9)
Transformation of any kind requires a catalyst. Perhaps it’s an epiphany as in Saul’s case. The consistent message of John the Baptiser (Matt. 3:2), Jesus (Mark 1:15), and the Apostles (Acts 2:38) is that we must acknowledge sin in our lives and turn from it in order to enter the kingdom of God.
Repentance as I’m using the term refers to more than just me changing my actions. As we recognise our past sins, we also recognise the eternal consequences of our sins. Saul’s repentance lead him to fast and pray for three days as he [presumably] confessed his sins and pleaded with God for mercy and forgiveness. In response to Saul’s repentance God sent Ananias to baptise him.
Repentance is the catalyst that God uses to bring Saul (and us) into the kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit Indwells (Acts 9:17)
The Holy Spirit’s presence demonstrates to us that no matter how corrupt our lives to this point, Jesus cleanses us so completely that holy God can live within us.
The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism. Peter promises the Holy Spirit to those who repented at Pentecost. The Spirit’s presence within us is intrinsic to our spiritual transformation.
The Holy Spirit empowers our transformation. We’ve tried a life of holiness on our own, and failed. We can only live up to the ethic of the kingdom of God because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Galatians 5:16-26 demonstrate the difference the Holy Spirit makes when we submit our lives to Him.
Jesus Commissions (Acts 9:20-22, 28-29)
If we think salvation is all about sin and its consequences we miss something significant. God does not forgive us so that we can continue to live as we always have while making a few moral adjustments.
When we immerse ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ we also join the mission of God. God’s love for us and our love for God inspire us to love our neighbours. Paul enters the kingdom of God and immediately begins preaching “that Jesus is the Son of God!” The primary concern of the kingdom of God is not our personal piety, but the redemption of the world.
When we fail to infuse an urgent concern for the lost into the identity of new converts we undermine God’s design of his kingdom. Accepting Christ as the Lord of our lives requires us to adopt the mission of Christ.
Satan Attacks (Acts 9:23, 29)
Saul’s preaching led to death threats.
Jesus’ baptism led to a Satanic showdown in the wilderness.
Spiritual transformation does not occur in a vacuum. Spiritual warfare is a very real part of our journey toward God. In fact, God often teaches us that He uses these attacks as part of our transformation process. James writes (1:2-4) that we should, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
This final phase actually returns us to the first. As Saul experiences attempted murder from the Jews, God still requires him to love them, accept them and willingly share the Gospel with them. At some point in the future Saul may find himself face-to-face with those who now plot his execution. How will he respond? Will he run? Will he retaliate? Will he pray for their destruction? Or will he accept them as people needing the grace of God?
- Do you have any “phases” you would add to this list?
- Is this description a helpful way to think of the transformation God wants to produce in our lives?