and all who heard him were amazed and said, “is not this the man who made havoc in jerusalem of those who called upon this name? and has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” but saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the jews who lived in damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. [acts 9:21-22]
saul’s past goes before him. maybe you can relate. he has seen Jesus. he has been confronted with the glory of God, and he has believed. he has been made a new creation. Jesus has become his life, his mission, his greatest desire, his purpose. but saul has a reputation that remains the same.
perhaps your reputation precedes you. there are places you feel you can no longer go because of the damage you have done. there are people you feel you could no longer reach because of the hurt that you have caused. perhaps there are even situations where you slipped back into old habits, and that old self reared his ugly head and you feel you have ruined any chance of speaking truth.
these are lies we hear that are straight from the pit of hell and must be silenced with the truth. take your example from saul. he had hated. he had murdered. he had ravaged. and now one of his biggest opponents in ministry is his own reputation. but thanks be to God that our past is no match for the gospel! thanks be to God that our reputation is nothing for the Spirit of God to overcome and work through!
when we see our past as an obstacle, we must open our eyes and realize that our past IS the beauty of the gospel. if our past was spotless, then Jesus came and died for no good reason. if our past was “normal” we would not see our need for God’s grace. if our past was unstained by sin, we could not proclaim a God who has forgiven us a great debt out of his great love.
no, our past is our testimony to God’s grace. and we all have a past.
and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [eph 2:1-3]
saul’s testimony was met with skepticism and doubt. we can expect the same. but just as saul increased all the more in strength as he taught and proclaimed, we are called to the same perseverance. we are called to the same mission. proclaim that Jesus is God’s Son, and that he came into the world to save sinners like us.
where have you avoided taking your testimony of God’s great mercy? where do you doubt that God could use you? together, as a body, let’s be encouraged by saul today, and trust that our God will use us, past and all, to bring many sons to glory!
~ arwen eastman