By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
Our world is constantly looking for a change to obtain lasting happiness and peace. It changes careers in the hopes of more finances, changes hair color in order to look younger, changes spouses desiring a happy marriage, and changes religions in the hopes of finding peace. None of these alterations do anything with the internal and eternal. More money causes us to spend more, our hair grows out to its natural color, we are still that faulty husband or wife, and the new religion failed us because we couldn’t live it.
Jesus, however, is that answer mysteriously eluding the world even though His presence and testimony are clear. He is that Savior who owns the cattle upon a thousand hills, He gives the promise of eternal life, He transforms us to be the loving and faithful spouse, and His name is the Prince of Peace. Jesus Christ is the answer for real change. Jesus turned ordinary fishermen, tent makers, carpenters, and tax collectors into disciples, ministers, disciples, and apostles who voluntarily gave up profitable ways of living to become vessels willing to give their lives for His cause. This change in occupation makes no sense to the world living in spiritual darkness. Why would someone quit a job to make less money and be hated and hunted by the authorities?
Not only did these faithful followers lose a substantial provision of income, but they also forsook their place and status in society. Christ makes this change in the life of the believer. His spirit transforms a worldly heart seeking riches and fame into one desiring to be about “the Father’s business.” Here are three things Christ lets us know that can change our lives:
1. He Lets Us Know Who We Are
Saul was a terrorist and one of the greatest enemies of the believer during the era of the early church (Acts 22:4). He was “standing by, and consenting unto” the death of Stephen and “kept the raiment of them that slew him (Acts 22:20). In order to continue his pursuit against believers, Paul desired letters from the high priest “to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). Then, on his way to Damascus, the Lord confronted and questioned him from “light from heaven” asking “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” In response to Saul’s request for identification, the Lord pronounced, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
While visibly shaken, Saul immediately asked “Lord, what wilt have me to do?” Even though our conviction experience was probably less dramatic, it was nonetheless effective and illustrative of our lost and sin-sick condition. Our own personal “Damascus road confrontation” conveyed to us that we were at enmity with Christ just as it did to Saul. By recognizing our condition and placing faith in Jesus as both Lord and Savior, our only logical response is “what would you have me to do?” We were bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Thus, we are to have the desire of a servant for obedience to the Heavenly Father.
Paul in his writing to the church at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 declared, “know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” After giving a list of sins so severe we would probably sigh in supposed relief of innocence, he wrote, “and such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” We were “that people” and our sins were as condemning as those listed. Recognizing the full depravity, lowliness of our condition in sin, and the darkness of our heart, it took the shedding of the blood of the perfect sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ to cleanse our soul white. Our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior justifies us in the eyes of an all-holy all-righteous God as if we had never sinned. Christ made the necessary payment and submitted himself to wrath for the sins of mankind. This cleansing and sanctification set us apart and give us the desire through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to burn our “curious arts” and grow closer to our Savior. We are a blood-bought people.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Fares Hamouche
2. He Lets Us Know Who We Need to Become
The Lord instructed Saul where he needed to go and prepared Ananias to receive him. Ananias in doubt of the validity of Saul’s transformation noted: “how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.” The Lord, however, told him to continue with His request because “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Paul clearly became this vessel for Christ and so much more. Paul in the fourth chapter of Philippians outlines the desired characteristics of an effective believer. In verse four, he told the people to “rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Believers have a reason to rejoice and proclaim the greatness and sufficiency of our Savior. The believer has the realization that the only peace is through a relationship with Christ. This peace “passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Paul in verse 11 noted the importance of contentment. He wrote, “not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” Contentment is not the settling for less as the world would have us to believe. Contentment in Christ is the acceptance that He has provided all of our necessities today and is preparing for us all of His riches in glory for tomorrow. We understand and rejoice because our inheritance is Jesus Christ and our great reward is forthcoming. Additionally, Paul placed great importance on the believer desiring fruit. In verses 16-17, when mentioning the provision given by the people at Thessalonica, he indicated, “not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” Paul knew his “God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
In life, Paul suffered mental and physical torture because of his perseverance through the power of Christ to preach the gospel message. Despite the pains, he still felt obligated to rejoice because of the Lord’s faithfulness. He had spiritual peace and contentment despite living in a world of dispute, turmoil, and constant change. In death, his messages and preaching have endured as his writing of most of the New Testament is preached and read each day by the world. Paul became the bearer of much fruit because of Jesus.
3. He Lets Us Know What to Expect
While attempting to buy worldly happiness and please the flesh with indulgences, we catch ourselves trying to prove God wrong in Job 14:1 telling us that “man that is born of a woman, is of a few days, and full of trouble.” This verse is focused on the detrimental effects of sin on man’s body because of its Adamic nature. However, the same can be said for the believer in His spiritual life as he lives it out within a sin-laden wicked world. Similarly in John 15:18, Jesus said, “if the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” Thus, a good test of our witness or faith is how well we are accepted by the world. If the world does not have an issue with our message, preaching, or teaching, odds are it isn’t in alignment with the teachings of Jesus.
Our sermon is one of grace but sprinkled with a dash of salt. The church should be concerned with members who proudly don the “I love Jesus, but I drink a little” and “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little” shirts. Yes, we still have sinful flesh and fall short in our daily lives regularly. The spirit of the Lord within us, however, enables and empowers us with the desire to want to separate ourselves from the world. The Holy Spirit does not condone or accept any promotion of worldliness. In John 3:20, Jesus taught “for every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” The Lord informed Ananias that part of Saul’s growth and transformation would include Him showing “[Saul] how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
The more we grow as the sanctification process matures us spiritually, the more we can fully realize the extent of our lost condition prior to salvation. Thus, Paul’s transformation and growth were an enlightenment to the birth of the greater servant in the kingdom Paul was able to become. Our Christian spiritual journey is evidence of the Lord molding us to be willing vessels that minister in love about the contentment, peace, and riches found by placing faith in Jesus Christ. Now that is something to rejoice about!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ aldomurillo
Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, fill-in preacher, and pandemic televangelist. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.