Before you decide, what you are, or who you are or, most importantly, understand why you are
here. how would you know to express yourself or, live your life to the full?
Paul writes, Php 4:12-, “I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”
Who is this Paul? Who was his mentor?
This is what Paul has to say about himself, Act 22:1-, “Brothers and fathers, listen as I now present my case to you.” When the mob heard him speak to them in Hebrew, they became even quieter. Then Paul continued, “I’m a Jew. I was born and raised in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia and received my education
from Gamaliel here in Jerusalem. My education was in the strict rules handed down by our ancestors. I was as devoted to God as all of you are today.
“I persecuted people who followed the way of Christ: I tied up men and women and put them into prison until they were executed. The chief priest and the entire council of our leaders can prove that I did this. In fact, they even gave me letters to take to the Jewish community in the city of Damascus. I was going there to tie up believers and bring them back to Jerusalem to punish them.”
This is what he said on another occasion, Php 4:4-, “Be glad in the Lord at all times: again I say, be glad. Let your gentle behaviour be clear to all men. The Lord is near. Have no cares; but in everything with prayer and praise put your requests before God. And the peace of God, which is deeper than all knowledge, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
“For the rest, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have honour, whatever things are upright, whatever things are holy, whatever things are beautiful, whatever things are of value, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, give thought to these things. The things which came to you by my teaching and preaching, and which you saw in me, these things do, and the God of peace will be with you.
“I am very glad in the Lord. However, I will not say anything about my needs, for I am able, wherever I am, to be dependent on myself. It is the same to me if I am looked down on or honoured; everywhere and in all things I have the secret of how to be full and how to go without food; how to have wealth and how to be in need. I am able to do all things through him who gives me strength.”
He also had this to say, Php 3:1-, “Finally, my dear friends, be glad that you belong to the Lord. It doesn’t bother me to write the same things to you that I have written before. In fact, it is for your own good. Watch out for those people who behave like dogs! They are evil and want to do more than just circumcise you.
“But we are the ones who are truly circumcised, because we worship by the power of God’s Spirit and take pride in Christ Jesus. We don’t brag about what we have done, although I could. Others may brag about themselves, but I have more reason to brag than anyone else does. I was circumcised when I was eight days old, and I am from the nation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Hebrew. As a Pharisee, I strictly obeyed the Law of Moses.
“And I was so eager that I even made trouble for the church. I did everything the Law demands in order to please God. But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ.”
When Paul was in Galatia, he took them to task, Gal 1:6-, “I am shocked that you have so quickly turned from God, who chose you because of his wonderful kindness. You have believed another message, when there is really only one true message. But some people are causing you trouble and want to make you turn away from the good news about Christ.
“I pray that God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from our message to you! It doesn’t matter if that person is one of us or, an angel from heaven. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I hope God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from what you have already believed.
“I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ. My friends, I want you to know that no one made up the message I preach.
“It wasn’t given or taught to me by some mere human. My message came directly from Jesus Christ when he appeared to me. You know how I used to live as a Jew. I was cruel to God’s church and even tried to destroy it. I was a much better Jew than anyone else my own age was, and I obeyed every law that our ancestors had given us.
“But even before I was born, God had chosen me. He was kind and had decided to show me his Son, so that I would announce his message to the Gentiles. I didn’t talk this over with anyone. I didn’t say a word, not even to the men in Jerusalem who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went at once to Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
“Three years later I went to visit Peter in Jerusalem and stayed with him for fifteen days. The only other apostle I saw was James, the Lord’s brother. And, in the presence of God, I swear I am telling the truth.
“Later, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. But no one who belonged to Christ’s churches in Judea had ever seen me in person. They had only heard that the one who had been cruel to them was now preaching the message that he had once tried to destroy. And because of me, they praised God.”
Not only the above he also took Peter to task, Gal 2:10-, “The only thing they asked us to do was to remember the poor, the very thing which I was eager to do. When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I had to openly oppose him because he was completely wrong.
“He ate with people who were not Jewish until some men James had sent from Jerusalem arrived. When they arrived Cephas drew back and would not associate with people who were not Jewish. He was afraid of those who insisted that circumcision was necessary.
“The other Jewish Christians also joined him in this hypocrisy. Even Barnabas was swept along with them. But I saw that they were not properly following the truth of the Good News. So I told Cephas in front of everyone, ‘You’re Jewish, but you live like a person who is not Jewish. So how can you insist that people who are not Jewish must live like Jews?’ We are Jewish by birth, not sinners from other nations.
“Yet, we know that people don’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ. So we also believed in Jesus Christ in order to receive God’s approval by faith in Christ and not because of our own efforts. People won’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards.
“If we, the same people who are searching for God’s approval in Christ, are still sinners, does that mean that Christ encourages us to sin? That’s unthinkable! If I rebuild something that I’ve torn down, I admit that I was wrong to tear it down.
“When I tried to obey the law’s standards, those laws killed me. As a result, I live in a relationship with God. I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live, I live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins. I don’t reject God’s kindness. If we receive God’s approval by obeying laws, then Christ’s death was pointless.”
What brought about this sudden mind change in Paul’s life? He appeared to have been a respected God-fearing individual. As a young man (then named Saul), he was prepared to take a stance, he openly sided with his former mentors, Act 7:51-, “How stubborn can you be? How can you be so heartless and disobedient? You’re just like your ancestors. They always opposed the Holy Spirit, and so do you! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute? They killed those who predicted that a man with God’s approval would come. You have now become the people who betrayed and murdered that Man.
“You are the people who received Moses’ Teachings, which were put into effect by angels. But you haven’t obeyed those teachings. As council members listened to Stephen, they became noticeably furious. But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked into heaven; saw God’s glory, and Jesus in the position of authority that God gives.
“So Stephen said, ‘Look, I see heaven opened and the Son of Man in the position of authority that God has given him!’ But the council members shouted and refused to listen. Then they rushed at Stephen with one purpose in mind, and after they had thrown him out of the city, they began to stone him to death. The witnesses left their coats with a young man named Saul.
“While council members were executing Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, welcome my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and shouted, ‘Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.’ After he had said this, he died.”
Not only did Paul have a mind-change he also had a name-change. Saul means ‘demanded’ whereas Paul means ‘little’. Saul’s ‘prayers’ were met, he discovered he was of ‘little’ value.
Concerning this ‘littleness’, Paul writes, Eph 3:2-, “Certainly, you have heard how God gave me the responsibility of bringing his kindness to you. You have heard that He let me know this mystery through a revelation. I’ve already written to you about this briefly. When you read this, you’ll see that I understand the mystery about Christ. In the past, people did not know this mystery as it is now. The Spirit has now revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.
“This mystery is the Good News that people who are not Jewish have the same inheritance as Jewish people do. They belong to the same body and share the same promise that God made in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this Good News through God’s kindness freely given to me when his power worked in me. I am the least of all God’s people. Yet, God showed me his kindness by allowing me to spread the Good News of the immeasurable wealth of Christ to people who are not Jewish.
“He allowed me to explain the way this mystery works. God, who created all things, kept it hidden in the past. He did this so that now, through the church, He could let the rulers and authorities in heaven know his infinite wisdom. This was God’s plan for all of history, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. We can go to God with bold confidence through faith in Christ.”
It was only after Paul’s calling, that Satan realised how foolish he was in entering Judas the evening of the ‘Last Supper’. Consider, for a moment, what Jesus said, Joh 13:18-, “I am not talking about all of you. I know the ones I have chosen (who would have thought that there could have been that uninvited guest, Satan, present, there at that ‘holy’ occasion?)” But what the Scriptures say must come true. And they say, ‘The man who ate with me has turned against me!
“I am telling you this before it all happens. Then when it does happen, you will believe who I am. I tell you for certain that anyone who welcomes my messengers also welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. After Jesus had said these things, he was deeply troubled and told his disciples, ‘I tell you for certain that one of you will betray me.
“They were confused about what he meant. And they just stared at each other. Jesus’ favourite disciple was sitting next to him at the meal, and Simon motioned for that disciple to find out which one Jesus meant. So the disciple leaned toward Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, which one of us are you talking about?’ Jesus answered, ‘I will dip this piece of bread in the sauce and give it to the one I was talking about.’ Then Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
“Right then Satan took control of Judas. Jesus said, ‘Judas, go quickly and do what you have to do.’ No one at the meal understood what Jesus meant. But because Judas was in charge of the money, some of them thought that Jesus had told him to buy something they needed for the festival. Others thought that Jesus had told him to give some money to the poor. Judas took the piece of bread and went out. It was already night. After Judas had gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man will be given glory, and He will bring glory to God.
“Then, after God is given glory because of Him, God will bring glory to Him, and God will do it very soon. My children, I will be with you for a little while longer. Then you will look for Me, but you won’t find Me. I tell you just as I told the people, ‘You cannot go where I am going’.”
The disciples were unaware of Satan’s presence; Jesus knew. Notice how Jesus led Satan ‘up the garden path’. Do excuse the pun. It was in the Garden that Satan won that round; he thought he would soon say, “Checkmate!” He slipped-up, 1Co 2:7-, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory.
”Not one of the princes of this world knew of this mystery. For, if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, ‘That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard: neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him’.”
Not only was Satan a guest at the Supper; the heavenlies too, were ‘tuned-in’. The moment Jesus said, “Judas, go quickly and do what you have to do,” shouts of applauding, clapping of hands and singing filled God’s throne room. As soon as Judas had left Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man will be given glory, and he will bring glory to God.”
That was two thousand years ago. The picture has changed. There are many ‘twos and threes’ gathered together. Concerning them, Jesus said, Mat 18:20, “Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.” Moreover, the ‘audience’, in the heavenlies, have increased. My prayer, that my actions also bring glory to Jesus, Heb 12:22-, “Instead, you/I have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together, to the assembly of the first-floor who are enrolled in heaven, to a judge who is the God of all, to the spirits of righteous people who have been made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel’s sacrifice. See to it that you do not ignore the one who is speaking.”
What happened to Saul/Paul that he had a sudden ‘mind change’? Surely, he must have been among the crowd who shouted, “Crucify Him!” Saul must have witnessed of Jesus’ miracles. The religious leaders, of his time, sure knew the art of brainwashing of how to stay in power in spite of their own failures.
It was on the Damascus Road when the Voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Imagine what went through Saul’s mind. All of a sudden, he understood the true meaning of the Scriptures he had so passionately studied. What sorrow he must have suffered the next three days. If only he had known.
What he did not know, he was known even before he was born. He, Saul, the man who ‘commanded’ was the man Jesus would need to further the Good News at the time when false teachings became widespread. While he was praying Jesus told Ananias, Act 9:11-, “Get up, go to the street called Straight, and in the home of Judas look for a man from Tarsus named Saul. At this very moment, he is praying.
“He has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so he would see again.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard many people tell how much evil this man has done to your saints in Jerusalem. He is here with authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on your name.”
“But the Lord told him, ‘Go, since he is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the gentiles, to their kings, and to the descendants of Israel. For I am going to show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.’
“So Ananias left and went to that house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were travelling, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled of a Holy Spirit.’ All at once, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.”
Paul’s last recorded words, 2Ti 4:6-, “My life is coming to an end, and it is now time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God. I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The prize that shows I have God’s approval is now waiting for me. The Lord, who is a fair judge, will give me that prize on that day. He will give it not only to me but also to everyone who is eagerly waiting for him to come again.
“Hurry to visit me soon. Demas has abandoned me. He fell in love with this present world and went to the city of Thessalonica… Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you. He is useful to me in my work.” You may recall Mark; Mark too, had by now a ‘re-stance’.
Had Paul not had his ‘Damascus Road experience’, what awaited him, ‘on that day’, would it not have been according to, Mat 23:10-? “Nor be called leaders, for One is your Leader, the Christ. But the greater of you shall be your servant. And whoever will exalt himself shall be humbled, and whoever will humble himself shall be exalted.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of Heaven before men; for you do not enter, nor do you allow those entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you go about the sea and the dry land to make one proselyte; and when he has become so, you make him twofold more a son of Hell than yourselves.”
I’ve come to a logical conclusion. One must before one can express oneself find out what one is. The Bible teaches, Rom 5:19, “Clearly, through one person’s disobedience humanity became sinful, and through one person’s obedience humanity will receive God’s approval.” Therefore, if one is a descendant of Adam, and we all are, then we are in need of a ‘Saviour’.
Jesus’ advise to Nicodemus, Joh 3:5-, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ‘Except anyone be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ Do not wonder that I said to thee, ‘It is needful that you should be born anew.’ The wind blows where it will, and thou hearest its voice, but knowest not whence it comes and where it goes: thus is every one that is born of the Spirit.” That was what happened to Paul, his Damascus Road experience, he believed and was baptised, his rebirth.
I’ve come to the above conclusion because of, Mar 16:14-, “Afterwards, Jesus appeared to his eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them because they were too stubborn to believe the ones who had seen him after he had been raised to life. Then he told them: Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world (the news of Jesus’ resurrection). Anyone who believes, and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”
For this reason Paul could say, Gal 2:20-, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, the One loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf. I do not set aside the grace of God. For if, righteousness is through Law, then Christ died without cause.”
Therefore, if I have to express myself and live my life to the fullest knowing that I no longer live rather, that it is Christ that now lives in me. Then I would be bound to express Him. The same principle would apply as that, which Jesus said concerning Himself, Joh 14:1-, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me.
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare an opportunity for you. And if I go and prepare an opportunity for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.
“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You go, and how can we know the way’? Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. And from now on you know Him and have seen Him’.
“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you such a long time and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. And how do you say, Show us the Father?
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works themselves’.”
It is obvious then, one who has had the ‘Damascus Experience’, will be expressing the ‘New Owner’, speaking His words and always consider, ‘What Would Jesus have Done’ (WWJD). The ‘self-image’ no more exists; I am no longer it’s now Christ in me. Heed James’ warning, Jas 4:5, “Or do you think that vainly the Scripture says, The spirit which has dwelt in us yearns to envy? But He gives greater grace. Because of this it says, ‘God sets Himself against proud ones, but He gives grace to humble ones.’ Prov 3:34
“Then be subject to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners! And purify your hearts, double minded ones! Be distressed, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy into shame. Be humbled before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
So, who am I? Well, I no longer am. My heart’s desire is to express Jesus.