CAUGHT IN THE ACT!
"One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorising my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh king, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?'
"'I said, 'Who are you, Master?'
'"The voice answered, 'I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet -- I have a job for you. I've hand-picked you to be a servant and witness to what's happened today, and to what I am going to show you.'" Acts 26:12-15 (The Message).
Did a day ever go by that Paul did not remember his encounter with Jesus? He remembered every detail as though it had happened yesterday. As he recalled it in the presence of the king, his entourage, the governor and all the dignitaries in the Great Hall that day, he relived those moments, felt the electricity of the Divine Presence once again and melted in the atmosphere of perfect Love.
The words of Jesus were branded on his heart. The Voice, like the sound of a thundering cataract, echoed and re-echoed around the caverns of his mind, supporting and steadying him through every danger and trial he experienced on his journey of life with his Master, and leading him ever on to greater heights of obedient love.
He didn't care what they accused him of doing, what they said about him or what they tried to do to him. Nothing could change or take away from his encounter with the risen Jesus, from the glory of the Presence that melted his hatred, his anger, his hostility and aggression towards those who believed in Him, and changed him in an instant from a vicious persecutor to a hopeless, helpless, passionate lover of Jesus.
"'I'm sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I'm sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who began real living by believing in me.'" Acts 26:16-18 (The Message).
Instructions like that should have sent a fanatical Pharisee into a frenzy of protest, had they come from the lips of anyone else than those of his new-found Lord. Go to the Gentiles! Outrageous! Never! But Paul had new eyes and a new heart. Instantaneously he was transformed. He saw, with the eyes of Jesus, the Gentiles as people, not "dogs" or inferior scum to be brushed aside with contempt. Go to the Gentiles? Anything, Lord, if it comes from your lips.
What made the difference for Paul? What should make the difference for us? Not "knowledge" which does nothing to change our hearts. It is only the real, vital, living presence of Jesus that can transform our stony hearts. When we "see" Him, we are changed. When we gaze on Him, we begin to reflect His glory. No work, service, labour, or doing things for Jesus can accomplish what moments of contemplation in His presence can do. There is no substitute for His presence.
Paul saw Him and for the rest of his life he continued to gaze on his Beloved. This is his secret: "And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect (contemplate) the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV).
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