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"Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, 'Isn't this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn't he come here to do the same thing -- arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?'
"But their suspicions didn't slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah." Acts 9:19-22 (The Message).
"Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am?" That was Jesus' question and challenge to His disciples at Caesarea Philippi, Israel's "red light" district where both Caesar worship and the worship of the goat god, Pan, and his associates, took place.
This "worship" was accompanied by the most blatant expressions of sexual perversion, co-habiting with goats to lure the evil spirits from their winter hiding place in the underworld. A cave in the rock from which a natural spring flowed to join the melting snows of Mount Hermon to source the Jordan River was regarded as the "gate of hell".
It was here, in full view of the goings on, that Jesus asked His question. If He was not the Son of God in an environment like this, what power did He have to rescue people from their sordid and perverse religion and behaviour and bring them back into fellowship with the Father?
It was here that He assured His followers that He would build His church and not even the place which the devotees of Pan believed to be the "gate of hell", the place of access to the underworld, would be able to withstand the power of who He was and what He came to do.
How subtly the proclamation of the gospel has changed from the the focus on who Jesus is to what He can do for us? Saul's message in Damascus was not, "I received Jesus as my Saviour"; "I asked Jesus into my heart"; "I prayed the sinner's prayer" or even, "I was born again." Like Peter on the Day of Pentecost, the message of the early church was, "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
What are the implications of that confession? Everything that we experience and receive through Jesus comes to us because of who He is. Our response should never be what He can do for me but my attitude of absolute reverence, submission and obedience because He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
How He treats me flows from who He is, not from the demands I make on Him because I have done Him the favour of believing in Him. Could it be that His church would become again what it was at the beginning if we trusted Him, not because of what He can do for us but because of who He is? Would we still bow the knee and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord if He never ever did another thing for us? He doesn't have to, you know!
The world is offering us many counterfeit "lords", which are all Satan's subtle way of usurping Jesus' place. If we continue to live our self-centred and self-absorbed "Christian" lives, expecting Jesus to serve us, we will miss the purpose for which He came, for which He died and rose again and for which He rescued us from the clutches of the devil, transferred us into the kingdom of God and supplies us with everything we need to live this life.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV).
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