We Need Spiritual Awakening
Steeped in Judaism, Saul miraculously became a spirit-filled follower of Jesus Christ. Later in his ministry, he would write, “If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” What a shock it must have been when he was surrounded by light and questioned, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered, “Who are You, Lord?” This was a man completely devoted to his beliefs, yet he was spiritually dead.
As to the Law, Saul was a Pharisee. Before Christ’s crucifixion, he specifically spoke to the Scribes and Pharisees. He said they appeared righteous on the outside, but on the inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness, greed and self-indulgence. His teaching was revolutionary from the religious leaders of his day. Jesus focused on the heart.
Jesus said a person must be born from above to know and follow the Lord. In other words, the Father must deliver man from the domain of darkness and transfer him to the spiritual kingdom of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Due to the fall, man is born in sin and in a moment by the grace of God, he is made spiritually alive. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Religion is marked by works to earn favor from god, perform in order to receive a reward, cover over wrong, or make penance in hopes of return. New life in Christ occurs by the grace of God alone.
As he walked the road toward Damascus, Saul was following a set of beliefs with tremendous zeal but was enslaved to sin in complete spiritual darkness. He had no idea he would meet with the Lord that day. God knew, and through his lovingkindness had set an appointment with Saul before the foundations of the world. “…suddenly a light shown around him from heaven…he fell to the ground, and heard a voice…” He was experiencing spiritual enlightenment. Paul would later write, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” Surely the apostle recalled the event as he penned those words.
Upon Saul's regeneration, the Lord would take every moment the persecutor of the church had spent studying the Law and redeem it for the glory of the gospel of Christ. By grace, the Father heals past brokenness and rebellion in the lives of his children. As we turn from sin and confess Christ as Lord, he redeems our past, present, and future. Moreover, transformation is progressive. Religion covers up. Through Christ's death and resurrection, believers are invited to take everything to him with our brothers and sisters in Christ and experience freedom and wholeness daily. Saul had rigorously tried religion, but it failed him miserably.
The human heart is easily led astray. Sadly, even in the local church we can lose sight of Christ and follow rules made by men. Rather than love the Lord with all our heart, we can choose to pursue idols. The choices are often subtle, but significant. Fortunately, the Lord seeks those who would worship him in spirit and truth. He graciously receives those who respond and humbly call upon him. May our prayer be for the Lord to open our eyes that we might see and love him; that he would awaken the affections of our hearts and the attention of our minds to him and his gospel above all things!
And this is the gospel: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
References: Acts 9; Philippians 3:4-7; Matthew 23:25-28; John 3:3; Colossians 1:13; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 1:4; Philippians 2:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-25; Romans 6:4-5; Jeremiah 17:9; Revelation 2:3-5; John 4:23; Romans 10:10-11