It is an awesome thing to see what happens to a person when God truly gets a hold of their heart. Most believers know people who once lived a pretty crazy life that have been completely transformed by accepting Christ. Churches are full of people that never imagined they would one day joyfully serve God. Drug addicts, murderers, thieves and every possible type of sinner have been known to fall before God and ask for acceptance through Christ. He has not nor will He ever refuse anyone that comes to Him with a sincere heart, regardless of their history or baggage.
The Bible tells us of one man whose main purpose in life was to persecute the Christians and bring all he met under the law. That man was a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, who later became Apostle Paul, follower of Christ . Saul lived a life zealously devoted to killing and destroying those who shared and lived the gospel. He felt it was his moral duty until Christ met him on the road to Damascus!
Acts 9:1-19 NIV 9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”“Yes, Lord,” he answered.11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
Here is a man determined to snuff out the early Church and yet God in His mercy saw something in Saul (soon to be Paul) that caused Him to transform His life for good. So how did things go for Saul from there?…
Acts 22:12-21 NIV 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be His witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.’17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Though he had done horrible things to Christ himself by persecuting the early Christians, Acts 9:4 NIV4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” God saw His potential and brought about a most beautiful change that only His Spirit could do. Saul was then given his new name Paul (some believe it was a custom after baptism to receive a new name representing new life.) Acts 13:9 NIV 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul went on to preach the gospel to both the Jews and the gentiles and write thirteen, (possibly fourteen) books in the New Testament. He became one of God’s greatest preachers of all time!
We should NEVER forget that there isn’t anyone with breath, that is too far gone for God to change. Though we look at the outer man, God is able to see the heart and know what that person is capable of once transformed by the blood of His Son and with the anointing of His Spirit. God can use those same character traits that we may find offensive, for His glory. Never underestimate what God can do for anyone. Instead ask God to save them and anoint them for service! Nothing is too big for our God.
the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)