Following Jesus Like Paul

Not everyone was thrilled when I decided to follow Jesus Christ.  My co-workers thought that I had cracked under the pressure.  They were amused that I had, “Got religion real bad.”  I have always been an outspoken person and that did not change when I was born again.  What was altered were my character and words.  Although they still poked fun at my new-found “halo”, they saw a new man; a better person, transformed by the grace of God.  Family members were also skeptical.  But over time, they became gratified living with the new me, imperfect but much better.  It was the same problem with the Apostle Paul.  His former colleagues were angry to the point of murder.  There is nothing in the Scripture about how the family of Paul reacted.  The silence indicates that there was trouble at home.  Whatever happened on the domestic side, Paul was hounded by his new-found enemies.  Paul never backed off his testimony or diluted his message to assuage his adversaries.  It has been this way for Christians ever since Jesus began preaching the good news in Galilee two thousand years ago.

One time, Jesus brought sight to a blind man.  The Authorities, who hated Jesus, were angry about the miraculous change that come about in the man.  They were furious that the man gave the glory to Jesus for supernatural healing.  Their hatred of Jesus was transferred to a blind man who could now see by the grace of God.  The Scripture is found in John 9.

“So…they (the Authorities) called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner.’

He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see…’

…They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from…You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’  So, they put him out (of the synagogue).”  Excerpts John 9:24-34 (NASB)

The formerly blind man was kicked out of the social order.  The synagogue was his “safety net” for survival.  He lost just about everything.  So it would be for most of the followers of Jesus.  The Apostle  Paul was constantly harassed by those who hated Jesus.  There is joy with people who truly understand what is going on within us when Jesus brings a new birth.  But with most, there is trouble for following Jesus.  This is what we know: when we confessed our sins to God; when we came to Jesus in real faith, something happened to us that we cannot deny.  We were transferred from blindness to sight; from darkness to light.  Our testimony endures even through the opposition, ill-will, and slander of the world.

The Apostle Paul was a man who endured such things with joy.  He was thankful for the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.  It meant more to him than any career; any possession; any goodwill the world could offer.  He was astounded about what God had done in his life.  Paul’s testimony gives us his attitude from his own pen, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”  Philippians 3:8 (NASB)

A prayer…“Father in heaven, thank you for Your transforming grace in Jesus Christ.  I pray that you would help me be a witness for Jesus.  I am astounded by what you have done in my life!  Help me, today, to speak gracefully to those who really do not understand what happened.  Support me now, O Lord, to speak with kindness to them, no matter what they may say against You, or do to me.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

George Cargill