October 17, 2014
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
Let’s begin today by rewinding the tape on Paul’s address to the angry mob of Jewish men whom he addressed as “Fathers and Brothers.”
“Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.”
I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.
It should scare us to see how the goodness of God given faith can devolve into the evil of Satanic inspired zeal for God.
How is what Paul did before his conversion and what his attackers are doing in the present scenario any different from radical Islamic zealots killing Christians today. Both are examples of religious terrorism. Islamic terrorists demonstrate great zeal for God, as they understand God. Paul and his former compatriots demonstrated great zeal for God, as they understood God. In both examples, they acted with religious conviction and had no sense they were doing anything wrong. In fact, religious terrorists almost universally do their deeds out of a sense of deep devotion and obedience to God, as they understand God. Unfortunately, history is littered with so-called Christians who are guilty of the same kind of religious terrorism.
Jesus himself warned of such things in the days before his crucifixion.
All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. John 16:1-4.
Zeal can be very good. Paul instructs the Romans to “never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11 Zeal can be very bad. Earlier in the same letter, Paul said this, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Romans 10:1-2
The difference comes in knowing God as God truly is. Jesus said it clearly, “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” There is knowledge and there is knowing; knowledge “of” or “about” God and knowing God.
What I am about to say is by nature offensive, though I do not say it to offend. Any knowledge about God outside of knowing the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is at best unhelpful and at worst dangerous.
Paul probably had more knowledge about God than 99% of the Jews of his time. And he was a very dangerous man. He is testifying to the angry mob about how his knowledge was overcome by knowing.
This became the focus of Paul’s ministry of prayer.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-18
There it is– to know this love that surpasses knowledge. That is Paul’s testimony.
THIS IS CONVERSION– THE JOURNEY FROM KNOWLEDGE TO KNOWING. It makes all the difference in the world.
Are you making progress on this journey? The secret to progress comes in the prayer just prior to the one above: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.“
It’s why we keep saying, . . .
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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