Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Elephant in the Room (12/05/13)
TITLE: Conversion Congeniality
By Dan Wilson
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This same Saul would later write, ďFor I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.Ē (Romans 1:16 NKJV)
Saulís (later Paul) acceptance among the believers was not an easy transition. Sightless, he spent three days in Damascus waiting for Ananias to restore his vision. Though slightly intimidated and fearful to obey Godís command to visit Saul, Ananias understood his place in Godís plan for this future missionary. One can only imagine the awkward introduction of Saul to the Damascene disciples. Later, questions were abundant among the Jews as Saul preached the truth about Jesus Christ in the synagogues.
Paulís arrival in Jerusalem, his former persecution headquarters, was met with fear and trepidation among the local disciples who didnít believe his conversion experience. Where and how Barnabas met Paul we do not know. Luke described Barnabas as ďa good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.Ē (Acts 11:24 NKJV) He had the opportunity to listen to Paulís testimony and believed him. Barnabas brought Paul before the apostles so he could share his testimony.
Paulís zeal for his new found faith was exercised through his preaching and exhortation in the local synagogues. He was just as devout in his new Christian life as he was in his persecution of the believers. Even his former allies sought to physically harm him even unto death.
Ananias and Barnabas befriended Paul at a crucial juncture in his life. No doubt their testimony among the believers was an essential element in Paulís acceptance in the early church and to the apostles. The nonjudgmental, servant attitude Ananias and Barnabas display in introducing Paul to others is a pristine example of how we should accept and assist new believers today.
Paul defines his transformation in I Corinthians 5:17: ďTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.Ē (NKJV) This indelible truth is relevant today. A sinner who places their faith in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is made a new creation.
Nevertheless, for some new converts their acceptance into the church is obscured by their previous reputation in the community. Some immature Christians will take a wait-and-see approach before accepting them into their fellowship. This attitude will have a negative affect and cause the new Christian to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. This is not the example Ananias and Barnabas set for us.
Herein lays a ministry for mature Christians to exhort the love of Christ to the new believer. We should seek out those we do not recognize or we know are new and extend a warm welcome to them. We need to remind ourselves the worship service may be a new experience for the young Christian. It may be a type of service they are not accustomed to. How many times have you sat in the pew and watched a new person or family walk down the aisle looking for a place to sit and did nothing?
Acceptance by other Christians is an enormously important step in growing in the faith. A new Christianís family, previous friends and acquaintances may desert them. They will need new friends to fill the vacuum and provide spiritual support and guidance as they grow in the Lord. Who is proud of their sinful life before Christ? Paulís testimony to the Philippian church was: ďBrethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Ē (Philippians 3:13 and 14 NKJV)
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