Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: LOVE (agape and/or phileo) (03/12/15)
- TITLE: God has Become so Much Bigger Now...
By Noel Mitaxa
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Had God ever had such wonderful raw material to work with as me?
I knew all that he required; I could spot any departure from across town; and putting people straight became so easy that a new career path was beckoning.
A few Galilean hotheads at a big festival had spread ideas that overreached their roots. Local folks had mostly ignored them, since they know where the idiot-fringe is coming from; but hundreds of pilgrims had been distracted. But that’s tourists for you―they think whatever they see or hear is what happens all the time.
However, instead of quickly quickly dissipating, their numbers began growing. Worse, the tourists had started spreading their heresies back home. And the crazies were getting bolder.
Their leader’s name was Peter―or Cephas in Aramaic―which means “stone.”
Nice irony that. It actually sealed their fate, for stoning deaths were exactly what God’s law required.
My first execution went so smoothly that I received orders to take a team to quell another outbreak further north. Yet that culprit had been so amazingly serene. No anger. No threats.
Puzzling; but it was nothing compared with what was to come…
Damascus’ roofs were shimmering in the sun as we crested the Golan Heights; when everything suddenly went dark. I fell to the ground. Then, a voice in the blackness, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
I gasped, “Who are you, sir?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” came the reply. “Up you get and go into town; and you’ll be told what to do…”
We were stunned, but despite their confusion, my team led me to Judas’ house on Straight Street in Damascus; where I prayed and fasted in total darkness. Three days later, confirming my inner vision of a stranger’s visit, a man named Ananias arrived―welcoming me as a brother!
He told me Jesus had ordered him to visit; so I might see and be filled with his Spirit.
And then he prayed.
Powerfully and spontaneously. I’d never heard prayer like it; but God heard.
I felt my eyelids begin to loosen. Then suddenly I was blinking against the new-found glare.
Warmth and freedom pervaded my whole body; melting the fearful arrogance that had motivated my trip from Jerusalem. An overwhelmingly intimate unity of love with God himself―a depth of his presence that outstripped anything that fearful obedience to all those laws could ever hope to offer.
A few days later, my baptism allowed me to put my old nature to death, so I could live in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
That was when I gave up trying to impress God or anyone else with how good I am―or trying to protect him or his truth―which only block others’ grasp of how great his love is. For anybody. From anywhere.
My heritage now seems worthless, because my eternal inheritance is so much greater. And instead of enforcing obedience to Jewish laws on people who will never fulfil them, I extend Jesus’ invitation to anyone from anywhere to come to personally know him. From there, he empowers them internally to do all that the law requires―and much more.
Jesus has since led me all over the Empire, where I’ve preached salvation to Gentiles instead of Jews; and seen people of every race and religion discover the freedom of his Spirit. Better still, he equips them with gifts that enable Jesus to continue the ministry he began through them. Not just in Galilee or Judea, but wherever they are. And this freedom is amazing: freedom from the power of sin and from the fear of death. All powered by his love.
I’d expected I’d only stay around Jews; so I could explain to them how Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection release God’s acceptance and forgiveness forever. His act of love has placed all that separates us from him on himself―once for all time; so animal sacrifices are no longer necessary.
And in other irony: when I once came down heavily on any deviation from God’s law; his Spirit now alerts me to resist any efforts to push Gentile converts towards those laws.
For I know all those laws. Backwards.
And backwards is right where anyone starts heading if they try to rely on them, instead of accepting God’s love-gift of life forever with him...
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