1. Our Life Before Jesus (Acts 9:1-6)
Before Jesus changed Paul’s life, he was bent on destroying the message of Christ and His followers. Paul was a devout Jew and Pharisee. He studied the Law and Prophets and had the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the OT) memorized. He knew the prophesies of the Messiah, and he didn’t believe that Jesus was the prophesized Messiah. He believed that the Messiah would come and kick the Roman Empire out of Israel. He believed that the Messiah would come as a conquering king. So, when Jesus didn’t fight the Empire and was crucified, Paul ‘knew’ that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, and he wanted to stamp out this ‘heresy’. What Paul didn’t realize was that Jesus didn’t come to conquer the Romans, but sin and death. Paul later writes after Christ opened his eyes, “He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57). Before Jesus changed Paul, he was full of hate, sin, and death.
When we look at our lives before Jesus, we can count the sins in our life. Paul says,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
We were nothing but filthy sinners before Jesus changed our lives. Some of us have more dramatic stories than others. We’ve heard stories of people who were murderers, gangsters, drug dealers, etc… and Jesus completely turned their lives around. I grew up going to church with my mother, and I knew the right things to do and say. I was a good little church boy, but there was no meaning or purpose in my life. As I began to go into the 7th grade, I gained an attitude and started cussing. But when Jesus got ahold of my life and changed me, I didn’t want to cuss, I changed the music I listened to, and there was purpose in my life.
It doesn’t matter what our life was like before Jesus changed it when we discuss our sins and the life changing event of experiencing Jesus. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23), but Jesus says that “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people” (Matt. 12:31). No matter how extreme our sin may seem, it is all equally forgivable in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is not our story that matters, but Jesus’ story of changing our lives.
2. Our Life After Experiencing Jesus (Acts 9:17-20).
After Jesus appears to Paul, he is blinded and sent into Damascus. Ananias then goes to him to heal his sight. Paul is then filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized, and we take this as a sign of repenting from his sins and being saved by Christ. He spends some time with the disciples there and immediately began preaching that Jesus is the Son of God. He hated Jesus before, but now he proclaims Jesus as Lord.
We see a dramatic change in Paul’s life. As stated before, not everybody appears to experience such a dramatic change, but that doesn’t change the dramatic change we experience in our hearts because of Jesus. Remember, we were all sinners destined to Hell before Jesus cleansed and changed us. Paul tells us, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6). This light revealed the truth of Christ to Paul and to us. It changed our lives forever, and this change of revealed truth should inspire us to proclaim Jesus as Lord to others just like Paul.
3. A Change Compelled by Love
Paul teaches, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). When we experience the love of Christ, we no longer want to live for ourselves, but we want and are compelled to live for Christ. This means two things in our lives: 1) We are compelled to live in righteousness, and 2) We are compelled to tell others about Christ.
- Compelled to Live in Righteousness
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin….For the death [Jesus] died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:6-11). When Jesus changes us, we die to our sinful ways and live a life honoring to God by obeying His commandments and living in righteousness.
- Compelled to Speak Christ
We see that Paul immediately begins proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God and Lord after his conversion in Acts 9:20. Jesus commands us to do the same in Matthew 28:19. He commissions, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” When Jesus changes our lives, we want to and need to tell others about Him.
When I was at PowerPlus Youth Camp this summer, the pastor, Sammy Lopez, taught us two reasons someone isn’t changed: 1) They’re not saved. Jesus has not changed them. 2) They are not being discipled. They are not sitting under the teachings of a fellow believer and learning the Bible and how God expects us to live our lives.
We see that Paul spends some time with the disciples in Damascus. We can safely assume that he was being taught all of Jesus’ teachings in the light of Truth allowing him to be able to spread the Gospel. If you have been changed by Jesus but not growing, then go get involved in a local church. Hebrews 10:25-26 states, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (emphasis mine). Being involved in a church allows us to lift each other up through our weaknesses and hard times, to study the Word of God together, and to learn from each other as we walk daily with the Lord.
An encounter with Jesus changes us forever. We should see a life that exemplifies and glorifies Christ. If we do not, then are we truly saved? Are we being discipled?