We’ve been having Bible study at the Coffee Connection downtown for a couple months now and it seems we have a new set of people every week. We have been studying in Romans but it was time for a shift, so we read through most of Acts 9 last night. You know the chapter, the one that recalls Saul/Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
Saul was a very religious and intelligent man. Being a Hebrew of Hebrews, as he identified himself, he knew the scriptures and yet he didn’t even know Jesus when he spoke to him that day. Saul was on a tear locking up all who called upon the name of Jesus until Jesus himself confronted him. Suddenly Saul found himself on the ground blinded by a great light. He heard a voice asking him “Why are you persecuting me?” Of course Saul didn’t know what was going on and said, “Who are you?” I like how Jesus responded. He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!”I love how Jesus completely identifies with his followers.
As the story progresses God tells a man named Ananias to go and lay hands on Saul in order for him to regain his sight. Ananias had only heard bad things about Saul, and how he was mistreating and locking up Christians, so he wasn’t too excited about doing what God was telling him. In the end Ananias was obedient and went to pray and lay hands on Saul. Saul’s sight was regained, he was baptized, had a little something to eat and immediately began preaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Just like that he had been converted and immediately switched teams. Which led to his being persecuted just as Jesus said he would.
Sometimes it’s tough to see Christ in other people especially when seeing all of their faults comes so easily. Ananias only knew what he had heard about Saul and how mean and nasty he was, but God was calling him to look a bit deeper and see Christ in him. Sometimes we have a difficult time seeing through other peoples bad attitudes or disgruntled dispositions don’t we? Maybe we’ve been hurt by someone and now they’re claiming Christ has changed their life.
There are some who think having discernment means being able to see someone else’s sins or shortcomings. This simply isn’t true because even lost people can see that. True discernment is when you can see through those things and see Christ in them. While it may be difficult at first the Holy Spirit in us is longing for us to see what he sees. People’s lives aren’t changed because someone points out all of their faults. Real transformation takes place when we get them to focus on Christ in them. He is our hope of glory!
Later on in Acts 9 we read where Paul was now being threatened by the Jews, and the Christians were still a bit uneasy about him. He found himself on the outs with everyone until Barnabas came along. Barnabas came up beside him and introduced him to other believers assuring them Paul was on their side. So Barnabas was instrumental in the early days of Paul’s Christianity. He joined his faith and trust with Paul’s and encouraged him.
So which one are you? Are you Saul, full of anger and threats? Are you an Ananias, who does what God tells him even when he is unsure? Or are you a Barnabas that comes along beside someone to encourage them and introduce them to others?