Monday, July 25, 2011

MY FAILURE TO ACCEPT FORGIVENESS IS A CHOICE

But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. (Acts 8:3)

Saul was a man relentlessly bent on destroying Christians, thus the church.  He wasn't just asking them to stop believing in Christ, he was ravaging them, threatening murder, persecuting them.  He was imprisoning them for crimes not committed. 

Then one day as he walked towards Damascus to continue his bloody mission he heard a voice,

“Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”  (Acts 9:4). 

You have to understand, that he didn’t hear just any man speak.  It was the voice of God from heaven itself.

“suddenly, a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice” (Acts 9:3-4)

I’m thinking Saul must have been confused because as far as he was concerned he wasn't persecuting God but just defending Judaism.  He was just defending his faith.

So Jesus told him to get up and continue his walk into the city and that all would be told to him what he must do.  The men traveling with him had to lead him into the city because Saul has lost his sight.  He immediately began praying about what to do.  In a vision he saw a man named Ananias lay hands on him to restore his sight. 

In Damascus there was a man named Ananias whom the Lord came to in a vision.  He told Ananias to go seek Saul and lay hands on him to restore his sight.  Ananias struggles with this command.  Saul was the man he had heard such terrible stories.  But the Lord told him Saul was a chosen one.  I can’t imagine what Ananias thought.  Here he was working for the faith and he had to go help a man who was working against everything he had been defending.  I wonder if Ananias thought Saul wasn’t worthy of being a chosen one. 

So there he went, walking to Saul’s house, entering and laying hands on Saul, and restoring his sight and strength, for he hadn’t been able to eat for three days.  Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and was baptized.  Do you thing he was trying to figure out what had happened, and how it happened so fast? 

Regardless, Saul began immediately preaching for Christ and proclaiming him as the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)  Everyone who heard him was amazed.  He had just spent years persecuting Christians, and now he was one of them?  But Saul was a steady and strong preacher and the Jews were confused.  They thought he was on their side.  But as the number of Jewish converts increased, Saul was slowly proving that Jesus is the Christ.

I imagine Paul (Acts 13:9) was shocked as he recognized his actions for what they were; misguided killings, the ripple effect on families, the devastation of communities, his affront to the God of the universe.  Imagine the struggle to receive God’s forgiveness and to forgive himself.  But he did receive God’s forgiveness in full.  Paul went on to preach powerful sermons, teachings we still read today, about the gift of forgiveness available to all because of Jesus’ death on the cross.  Forgiveness is a powerful weapon that overcomes the evil in this world and brings healing to our wounded souls, but we must reach out and accept it.  To say that we don’t deserve to be forgiven is to make our sin more powerful than the blood of Christ.  The blood he shed can overcome any obstacle we think may lay in our path to salvation.  When we refuse to accept his forgiveness, we have made our opinion more powerful than that of the Holy Spirit and God.  It must seriously wound the heart of our Father when we will not accept the gift he has given us, the gift of total forgiveness that cost him so dearly, that of the life on his one and only son.

When we do all that we can to help someone and they turn around and don’t accept the help, doesn’t that wound our heart, how more so the death of a child.  God’s child.  Don’t make his sacrifice insignificant.  Embrace the forgiveness offered.

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