As July is the month we celebrate our Independence Day here in these great United States, we as Christians celebrate our freedom in Christ each and every day as we “live and move and have our being” in Him (Acts 17:28). I am grateful for every man and woman who has served our country and those who have given their lives for our freedom. There are great costs that precede freedom. Just like the land you stand on, there was a great price paid for the freedom of the soul within you. We will praise Jesus for eternity for His love in chasing after us with our emancipation letter (salvation) - paid in full, signed, sealed, and personally delivered. The greatest part of all is that even though He leaves it up to us to declare our emancipation from a life of sin, He continues to chase us and give us chance after chance to say YES!
Alright, I’ll stop preaching now and get to my story…
I want to tell you a story about just that… A man Jesus chased after to hand deliver His letter of emancipation in a very unique way. This man’s name was Saul. Well, the name his parents gave him was Saul, but we’ll get to that later. The passage is in Acts 9 and I’ll be focusing on verses 1-8, but this is only the beginning of an incredible story! I encourage you to read the entire chapter!
Let’s jump in!
In the beginning of Act 9, Saul was playing for the wrong team, and when I say “playing” I mean fighting. His goal in life was to “murder the disciples of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 9:1). In the Amplified Bible, it says Saul was relentless in his search for believers. Within the first few verses we learn Saul is headed to Damascus to continue his search and goes so far as to obtain an official letter from the high priest to solicit help for his mission. This letter ordered the Jewish leaders to assist him in finding and arresting any followers of Jesus in their city.
Talk about the opposite of an emancipation letter…
We don’t get too far in the story before Jesus shows up! He’s my favorite character in every story, past, present, and future. In verse 3 of Acts 9 it says, “Just outside the city, a brilliant light flashing from Heaven suddenly exploded all around him [Saul].” Isn’t that just like Jesus to intervene before we get too far down the wrong path? Sometimes He comes to us in a whisper, gently nudging us back in the right direction. Other times He’s gracious enough to come to us with big flashing signs saying “Wrong way! Wrong way! Wrong way!” Oh, He’s such a good friend!
Thankfully for Saul’s sake, Jesus shows up in his path as an explosion of bright flashing light with His booming voice that brought Saul to his knees. Jesus calls Saul by name asking “Why are you persecuting me?” to which Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” knowing good and well who it was before he asked the question! Let’s jump into the passage to see how Jesus answers and what happens next.
“‘I am Jesus, the Victorious, the one you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you are to do.’
Saul stood to his feet, and even though his eyes were open he could see nothing—he was blind. So the men had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. For three days he didn’t eat or drink and couldn’t see a thing.”
Acts 9:5-8 (TPT)
I’ve skipped over this part of the story so many times. I’ve heard the Road to Damascus story since I was a child. It made sense to me… Saul was a bad guy. Jesus punished him by blinding him for a few days then Saul became a good guy. My childhood logic accepted it as a consequence of his bad decisions. My history with Jesus has shed new light and understanding on this story. I have found…
Being blinded by the glory of the Lord is never a punishment.
The punishment Saul deserved was death. He deserved to die for persecuting God’s children. Jesus, in His infinite glory, offered Saul grace. In reading this chapter, you’ll find Jesus changed not only the trajectory of his trip to Damascus, but Saul’s entire life in this remarkable moment. Jesus was not punishing Saul. He was saving him.
Jesus closed Saul’s eyes so He could teach him to see with his HEART!
This moment of blinding glory was only the beginning of Saul’s heart transformation. The Bible doesn’t say much about what happened between Jesus and Saul in those three days, but knowing the character of my best friend Jesus, I’m certain He didn’t leave Saul’s side for a second. I know this because He’s never left mine. I can picture Saul sitting in the darkness, a deep internal darkness. My human brain wants to say, Saul deserved this darkness. He needed to sit and think about all the bad choices he made.
During those days of darkness, I don’t believe Saul ever felt alone. I don’t believe Jesus let a shameful thought reach Saul’s mind. It would be just like Jesus to have put a shield around Saul’s mind so no thought from the enemy could penetrate and perfect peace would be his portion for those three days. Instead of shaming Saul and listing all of his sins, I imagine Jesus gently whispering in detail all the reasons He loved him. I doubt Jesus even let him get any sleep. Jesus wanted Saul to Himself for three days to fill his heart with an explosion of love that would burst out on everyone Saul encountered from that day forward.
Jesus took away Saul’s sight so he could learn His character, hear His voice, and choose whether or not to blindly follow Him. Saul chose to let go of who he was and become who he was born to be, Paul. Just as Saul was relentless in his search for believers to persecute, Paul became relentless in his search for unbelievers to bring them to the light of Christ. The Apostle Paul who gave us a majority of the latter books of the New Testament expanded the depth and width of the church of Christ forever.
Friends, when Jesus interrupts your plans, you don’t have to be scared. Even though He may not tell you the step-by-step plan upfront, you can trust what He has in store will be glorious. In Hebrew, Paul means “little” or “humble”. What if this one small act of humility, from Saul, to turn from his wicked ways of persecution and become the Apostle Paul, changed your life? What if his obedience started a ripple effect that caused the gospel to reach you?
I’ll leave you with this question... What plans is the Father asking you to surrender? Listen for His whisper. Look for His warning signs. He may not reveal the full plan from start to finish, but He will walk with you every step of the way. Your obedience to walk in step with Him just might start a ripple effect for the generations to come!
Surrender to the Mender and allow yourself to be blinded by His glory.
As my Aunt Micah says…
Until next time,
Connect to the Mender.
Be a sender.