“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him [Stephen] to death...Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” Acts 8:1,3
Saul wasn’t seeking Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was seeking to murder those who followed Jesus. Instead of murdering more Christ followers like Stephen, Saul experienced death by the infinite grace and purpose of Jesus, which forever put death to Saul and brought life to Paul. Once again, Saul’s plan was murdering Christians, whereas Jesus’ plan was transforming Saul into Paul, so others like him may have a new name as well. God’s sovereign grace is so life-altering and merciful that a former murderer was entrusted with planting and edifying God’s church. This is the gospel. Paul embraced chains, shipwreck, and death because of Jesus’ transforming grace. He rejoiced in the death of his former self because Christ, who lives in his new life, is so much better. The death of Saul on Damascus road paved the way for Paul’s confidence and purpose in Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live; but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
We must put to death our old selves with Christ if we truly desire to live and rise with Christ. We must accept our new name as son or daughter if we truly desire God’s will for today and eternity. We must allow the Holy Spirit to transform us if we truly desire experiencing redemptive joy. We must embrace death if we truly desire uninhibited confidence in Jesus.
Jesus’ presence is better than the best this world has to offer. His compassion and love saved us from a wide path of hollow pleasure and eternal death. If we believe this, then why resuscitate the old person lurking around the fringes of our new name? Saul is dead. Paul is alive. Our old self was crucified with Christ, so we must never seek to resuscitate that which bears poisonous fruit. Jesus said, “no one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (see Luke 9:62) James said, “for if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”(see James 1:23-24) We must trust in God’s transforming grace by leaving our old self where it belongs - on the cross. We must continually seek and love God by clinging to and rising with our new life in Christ.
Do Christians fall in their walk with Jesus?
Christians who claim they do not fall are falling. Two types of falling exist: willful disobedience versus earnest sanctification. Willful disobedience is experiencing God’s grace but then blatantly refusing to accept and grow in Him through obedience and genuine relationship, whereas earnest sanctification is falling and rising along the path of righteousness: being pruned by the Holy Spirit through submission to Godly leadership, continual repentance of sin, and humbly seeking Jesus - individually and corporately.. Willful disobedience finds great pleasure and identity in sin, whereas earnest sanctification produces a deep hate for sin. Paul fell on the road of earnest sanctification often, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil I do not want.” (see Romans 7:18-19) Earnest sanctification produces a genuine relationship with God that exemplifies both a grievance toward sin yet a confidence in the victory Jesus has over sin. Earnest sanctification will always place men on their feet, “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again” (see Proverbs 24:16). Willful disobedience seeks opportunities to sin, then after sinning, finds distorted refuge in the sin.
God’s grace is sufficient to cover the sins of the willful disobedient - upon earnest repentance and restorative belief in Jesus - but this does not mean significant damage and consequences are avoided on this earth from willful disobedience. For instance, when the first New Testament church began, all the brothers and sisters who received the Holy Spirit joyfully gathered their earthly belongings together - in submission to the Apostles order - to balance the earthly gifts among the body of Christ. Ananias could not fathom giving all of him to Him, “Ananias kept back some of the price for himself...”(see Acts 5:2) which eventually lead to his death, “Ananias fell down and breathed his last...” (see Acts 5:5) The wages of sin is death. For Ananias, he experienced physical death, which wasn’t the only consequence. Just imagine the journey Ananias missed in the Lord because he wanted to hold onto his own kingdom. In our new life, our walk with God shouldn’t ask the question: what sin can I partake in that breeds minimal consequences? But rather the question should be, “How can I use the freedom Christ has given me to bring glory to His name and live in the fullness of His design?”
Jesus paid the price for us to have a new name, a new inheritance, a new vision, and a new life. Our destiny in Him is eternal life with Him. Nothing on this earth can compare to the infinite grace and love found in our Lord. We must leave our old life on the cross where Jesus suffered, and walk in our new life offered in Jesus’ victory over this world.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of Your salvation and sustain within me a willing spirit.” Psalms 51:10-12
by Logan Heine