Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 4:46 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “You are Loving and Forgiving.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 22 (Select vv. ESV). Paul was now in Jerusalem. When he arrived, he was greeted warmly by his brothers in Christ. Nonetheless, some Jews from the province of Asia stirred up the crowd against Paul, and they brought false accusations against him. The crowds seized him and tried to kill him, but when the commander of the Roman troops came on the scene, they stopped. Then, the commander arrested Paul and ordered that he be taken to the barracks. Paul then asked the commander if he could speak to the people. He was granted permission, and so he began to speak (See: chapter 21). His Past Life (vv. 1-5) “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.” We all have a past life. We have experiences we have encountered, things we have done for good or for bad, and accomplishments we have fulfilled, etc. For some people, their past life is not much different from their present life, because nothing has really changed in their lives. For others, there has been a change (a transformation) of heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and their present life no longer reflects their past life. This does not mean they have reached sinless perfection, or that they will never sin again, but it does mean that they no longer conduct their lives on a daily basis the way they did before. They now walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to their sinful flesh, to fulfill its evil desires. If they do sin, they confess it, turn from it, and they continue walking in the ways of the Lord. No matter how bad our past life was, or still is, God’s grace is sufficient to forgive us of our sins, to transform our lives, and to give us new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Unless you are a robot of some kind, if God created you, then he can save you from your sins, and he can set you free to now walk in his holiness and righteousness. Yet, we are not saved by our own efforts, or because of our own goodness. It was while we were yet sinners that Jesus Christ died on a cross to take away our sins. We are only saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and in what he did for us in dying on a cross so that we could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could be set free to now become servants of his righteousness. His Testimony (vv. 6-16) “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’” The Bible says that no one can come to Jesus Christ unless the Father draws him or her. God drew Paul to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was not only not pursuing Jesus, but he was working against him and his servants when the Lord visited him on the road to Damascus. Not only did God the Father send his Son Jesus Christ to become a sin offering for us so that we could be saved out of our sins, but he lovingly pursues us, and he invites us to faith in Jesus Christ. Remember what it teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10. It is by God’s grace that we are saved, through faith – and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast that he accomplished his own salvation. Even the faith to believe is a gift from God, I believe. So, God gets all the glory for our transformed lives! When God calls us to himself, he will confront us with our sin, and he will ask that we turn from that sin, and that we trust him with our lives. When we believe in him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, which is to be lived according to the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh – all in the power and working of the Holy Spirit now living within us, as we cooperate fully with God’s work of grace in our lives. God does not save us just so we can escape hell, and just so we can go to heaven when we die. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). When God calls us to himself, he does so for a purpose beyond just saving us from our sins, though. He created each and every one of us for a reason. He has a design for our lives. And, he wants us to know his will. His general will for all of us is written about in his Word, the Bible, and more specifically in the New Testament. Yet, he has a very specific will for each individual person, too. He didn’t make us all the same, and he will not use us all in the same way. We have different personalities, talents, abilities and spiritual gifts, which are to be used for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, for the encouragement of the body of Christ, and for the advancement of the kingdom of heaven. So, we need to have ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us with regard to our specific calling, and then we need to obey what God shows us, and do what he says. His Mission (vv. 17-21) “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” For some of us, God may keep us right where we are, doing what we are doing, and that is where he may use us. For others of us, he may now be saying to us to “Go” wherever it is he wants to send us, so we must listen to what he says, and we must answer, “Yes” to his call. If we want to know his will, we need to be doing what we already know. We also need to be in tune with his voice, so we will recognize his voice when he does speak to us. Then, we must have willing hearts to obey, and we must step out in faith and go when and where he says, when he says “Go!” Then, we must trust him to work out all the details, and to lead and direct our path each step of the way. Lord, lead me today in your righteousness. You are Loving and Forgiving / An Original Work / February 19, 2012 Based off Psalm 86 You are loving and forgiving, Jesus, Savior, King of kings. You provided our redemption. By Your blood You set us free. You are gracious; full of mercy. No deeds can compare with Yours. Great are You; there is none like You. Glory be to Your name. Teach me Your way, and I’ll walk in it. O Lord, I will walk in Your truth. May I not have a heart divided, That Your name I give honor to. I will praise You, O Lord, my Savior, For great is Your love toward me. You have delivered me from my sins. Your grace has pardoned me. You, O Lord, are full of compassion, Slow to anger, bounteous in love; Faithful to fulfill all You promise; Glory be to Your name above. Hear, O Lord, and answer Your servant. You are my God. I trust in You. Turn to me and grant Your strength to me. You are my comforter.