Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Are You Converted?

All of us have come from one thing or another.  As a child I was raised as a Catholic.  I went to a Catholic school.  I attended the Catholic Church.  I was taught Catholic values. 

Maybe you were a Buddhist or a Taoist; maybe you practiced Yi Guang Dao, or maybe you were a Muslim, or even an Atheist.  You didn’t believe in God at all, but now you do:  You’ve become a Christian.  You’re no longer involved in what you were doing before.  We would say you were converted, but I have to tell you that just changing religions is not conversion.  For a conversion to take place your life must be transformed.  You don’t think the way you did before.  You don’t speak the way you did before.  You don’t act the way you did before.  That’s conversion.

Acts 9:1-7 (NKJV)
9:1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." 7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.

Saul Was Who He Was

So, here we have Saul; he’s a persecutor of the church.  Remember, in Acts chapter 8 he stood by while Stephen was stoned.  He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen.  He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees; a teacher of teachers and led a great persecution against the early church.  His attacks caused Christians to leave Jerusalem and scatter throughout the world, but he wasn’t satisfied with just that.  He asked the High Priest to give him authority to travel to Damascus to persecute them there. 

He was breathing threats and murder against the disciples.  Can you picture this?  He had a great hatred toward them.  He was consumed with zeal to destroy Christianity itself…But along the road to Damascus, Jesus confronts Saul and asks him, “Why are you persecuting me?” 

There is a struggle that’s taking place within Saul.  It’s like he’s fighting within himself about things.  When Jesus confronts him He tells Saul, “It’s not easy to kick against the goads.”  This is a word picture – A goad is something that is used to move an animal.  It urges or stimulates and action.  Saul is urged into what he’s doing by a force that’s inside him.  He’s driven to persecute, but Jesus seems to be saying that Saul has been struggling against it…kicking against the goads.

I believe that when we’re sinners, there’s turmoil in all of us.  We’re all seeking God, but since we continue in sin, we feel bad, so rather than change we attack those who’ve already changed.  We’re driven by our sinful nature. 

Suddenly, Saul finds himself face-to-face with the risen Jesus.  This isn’t a vision but a face-to-face encounter.  Look how Saul describes it later:

1 Corinthians 9:1 (NKJV)
9:1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?

“Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?”  Jesus met him there at the Damascus road and changed him forever.  Saul the persecutor became Paul the Apostle.  He no longer zealously persecuted Christians.  Now, he zealously preached the Gospel.  There was a remarkable change in him, as a result of his meeting Jesus – This is conversion.

Conversion comes from an encounter with Jesus.  There are people who come to church, but they continue to live the same way that they lived as sinners.  They continue in sin, there’s no change.  There’s no evidence that they’ve been saved.  That word “convert” means to change form; to go from one thing to another.  If there’s no change there’s no conversion.  There must be a change in thought AND action.  Saul’s name change to Paul symbolizes that change.

Paul Had a Testimony

Paul was completely changed in his meeting with Jesus.  He was one way before he met Jesus but was a completely different person afterward.  You can see that this moment of conversion takes place while he is still in Jesus’ presence.  He calls Him Lord, “Who are you Lord?”  The he acknowledges Jesus as Lord over his life, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  What are you calling me to?  What is the need you have for me? 

Jesus told him to go into the city and he would be told what to do.  He obeyed and went into Damascus and was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Bible says he began immediately to preach in the synagogues.

Acts 9:20-22 (NKJV)
9:20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?" 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

This is the testimony – He was a persecutor and insolent man.  He had gone to Damascus to bring them bound to Jerusalem, but now he’s preaching Jesus; even proving that Jesus is the Christ.

What happened to you when you became a Christian?  Did your thinking change?  Do you think about sin differently?  Have you laid aside your sin?  Do you continue in it?  Is there evidence in your life that you’ve been converted?  The sad thing is that there are people in churches all over the world that have never experienced a conversion.  They remain stuck in their sin.  They continue in bondage.  There’s no evidence that they’ve really met Jesus.  They have no testimony of God’s grace on their lives.  It’s God’s grace that changes us.  Look at this:

1 Corinthians 15:8-10 (NKJV)
15:8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

This is Paul writing to the Corinthians.  He’s commenting about his testimony.  He’s writing about the power of the Gospel. 
What we do after we’ve been converted is the result of God’s grace working in our lives.  What Paul is saying here is:  I’ve stopped sinning because of God’s grace giving me the strength to make a decision to live for Him.  I preach the Gospel because of God’s grace, having caused a change in my life; I can’t help but declare the mercy that was extended to me.

As we’re converted and God’s grace works in us it’s natural for us to want to share it.  I want to see God work in other people’s lives like He worked in mine.  I want to share the power of God to change circumstances and lives like he’s done for me.

1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NKJV)
1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Paul immediately preached Jesus.  He didn’t wait until he understood everything about Jesus.  He declared what God did in him through grace.  There are people who’ve prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, but they’ve never been fully converted.  They’re still bound by the sin they were bound with and I really can’t understand it.  Getting saved is being BORN AGAIN:  It’s a new life; a second chance.  Why would you want to bring the old life into the new one?

Maybe it’s because I was so desperate for a change that I couldn’t remain the same way I was.  I’m so thankful for what Jesus has done in me!  That’s how grace works in you.  Paul changed because of the miracle that God did in him.  He couldn’t remain silent.  I can’t remain silent, either, and that’s also evidence of my conversion.

Paul Began to Live Out the Calling on his Life

In the middle of his conversion Paul asked Jesus, “What do you want me to do, Lord?”  He’s looking for God’s calling on his life.  He’s ready to die to his own will and take up Jesus’ will for his life.  That is absolute evidence of his conversion.  Look at what Jesus says:

Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)
16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

This is the mark of a converted Christian.  That word Christian means “Follower of Christ.”  We have no problem following Jesus when He’s going to the place WE want to go, a truly converted Christian, is one who’s willingly following Jesus to a place where he DOESN’T want to go.

Take a look at your own life.  Think about your Christian walk.  Are you calling Jesus Lord?  Have you acknowledged Jesus as authority over your life? 

Do you have a testimony?  Is there a change that has taken place in you as a result of God’s grace?

Are you preaching Jesus?  Do you tell others about what Jesus did in you and can do in them?

Are you denying your will?  Are you following Jesus to the place He wants you to go?

If you can’t answer yes to those questions, then you’ve never really met Jesus, but don’t despair.  He’s waiting for you on your own Damascus road.  You can meet him today and be converted in a moment of time.  Paul’s conversion only took a few moments.  Some people think they have to watch Him for years, follow some ritual, or change before they meet Him.  All it really takes is an openness to His calling on your life – And He is calling.  If you haven’t done so already, then answer the call, today and let His grace work in you.

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