Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Tale of Two Converts (Chapters 9-11~Book of Acts)

By vocation, Saul of Tarsus was considered a holy man--a Pharisee. But true righteousness revealed him to be violent and unrighteous. As a young man he presided over the death of Stephen, and then used it as a catapult to launch a full fledged attack against the fledgling church.

But he was converted. Is it any wonder that his salvation came amid a violent encounter with Christ? Luke tells us that Saul's conversion was not an ambling journey that finally acknowledged the saving merit of the risen Christ. Instead, like a laser guided missile, Christ sent a bolt of light from heaven that left Saul blind and sprawled on the desert sand. How terrified the pharisaical bully must have been when Jesus shouted out his name telling Saul that He took his persecution of His followers as a personal affront. Those of the Way belonged to him. Their pain was his pain.

Saul was a changed man--a 180 degree turn around. Once the scales fell from his blinded eyes and the hands of those he wanted to shackle nursed him back to health, Saul preached Christ's redemptive message with abandonment. His life's work and mission would no longer be accomplished by the point of a sword. Instead, his work and mission would be spiritual. Saul became Paul, the greatest missionary the world would ever know, and the spiritual point of the spear in the worldwide advance of the gospel that would pierce the darkness.

Then there is Cornelius, by profession a centurion--a man of war. We are not sure how this officer who held authority over a subjugated Jewish people became captivated by their monotheistic God. Judging by all that Jesus said throughout the Gospels, Judaism was but a shell of what God had intended it to be.

Cornelius followed the spiritual bread crumb trail, and dim light that he could see, and set about on a journey of devoutness, generosity, and prayerfulness. Even though his reach fell short of his grasp, he hungered and thirsted for righteousness and God saw to it that he would be filled. When he could see but a faint trace of God, God saw his heart clearly, brought Peter and the soldier together through His sovereignty, and saved him. Jesus always looms larger than the institutions that through neglect hide Him.

The single conversion of a Roman centurion announced an opened door for people from every tribe and tongue to one day stand before God fully redeemed.


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