He was wrong. His life devotion – that of protecting the faith of his fathers and pushing back against those who advocated differently – was misguided. In a moment of time, he came face to face with the reality that his life was an offense to God. No arguments or excuses could justify what he had become an enemy of God.
For a religious man that had to be devastating. Guilt certainly reminded him in an instant of all of the lives he had ruined in his zeal to carry out his mission of purification of the faith. How was it possible that such an educated, driven, principled person could be so deceived? He put his faith in the hands of others. (That’s a lesson to explore another time)
Paul’s life before Damascus is an extreme example of how many of us have often conducted ourselves. Our religious zeal, not according to knowledge, has had a negative effect. We have ruined lives and relationships –all while claiming we were on a mission of righteousness. We were wrong.
Like He did for Paul, God in His mercy confronts us with the error of our ways. Our response to that confrontation sets the course of our lives. For Saul, the Damascus road experience was the beginning of a life he could not have imagined before he set out on his journey that day.
His response to that encounter, so full of instruction, is what we will concentrate on today. That one sentence denotes a changed life.
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Acts 9:6
He has no agenda nor ambition to pursue. His only question was, “Tell me what you want me to do, and I will do it.” Those words and that attitude is the mark of true conversion. It is the experience that all of us must have. It is the acknowledgment that we have surrendered all and that our only aim in life is to know His will and to do it.
That often sounds romantic. The hero of the story marches valiantly into danger with a divine mission that could not be denied. That was not Paul’s experience. His compliance to divine direction was undertaken in blindness and uncertainty. As he wrestled with the guilt of his past, he also had to feel some trepidation about his future.
The glorious history of the Apostle Paul had not yet been written. His leadership of the young church was unthinkable at that time. Surely it had to be quite plausible that God would soon visit him with judgments for his past persecution of the church. But that was wrong.
Paul’s conversion is not just an amazing story of how God can turn around the most hopeless case. It also illustrates that God sees value in our potential even when there is seemingly no evidence to support it. Only God knew what a converted Paul could bring to the table. Only heaven knew the impact that one life would have on a lifetime of others. And Paul was not an isolated case.
The Bible is full of stories, not just of redemption, but of redirection. God, who is rich in mercy, confronts man in his error and gives him the opportunity to not only repent but to have a greater purpose in life. But to experience that redirection the words of Paul must be our own. “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
I know by experience that the struggle to get to that is real. The enemy will place before us all of the reasons why a complete yielding would be hazardous to our happiness. Our fears and doubts get ahead of us and instead of saying unequivocally yes to God, we give Him conditions. Our conversion is not yet complete.
God’s love for Paul was no greater than His love for you and me. Without a doubt He is orchestrating events in our lives to lead us to a place of complete conversion. Our purpose in life, as disciples of Jesus, can only be fulfilled when we yield all to Him. When we see Him more clearly as He is and appreciate more deeply the price paid for us, I’m confident we like Paul will only have one thought in life – Lord, what do you want me to do?
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does being converted mean to you?
- What are the signs of being converted?
- How, if at all, does Bible study and prayer aid in conversion?
- What does Paul’s persecution of the church teach us about the danger of false zeal?
- Why did Jesus send Paul to the church for further directions after his conversion?
- Is it true that if your church is “dysfunctional” it is best that you not associate with it? Why yes or no?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The most important thing for a Christian is to be sincere. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson on The Conversion of Paul with the most well-known Bible text about conversion. It was spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus on his night search for truth.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons