“And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:5 NKJV
In the beginning, God created everything, and you and me. He visited us in the garden and had a personal relationship with us, a friendship with mankind. The curse of sin, which has a price tag of death, came upon the earth thanks to the devil’s trickery and changed everything. Although nothing can separate man from the love of God, sin does physically separate us from God. God created us to commune with Him and the enemy knew sin would destroy that bond. So, God created hell to punish the devil and his demons. The enemy knows it is his punishment, but he plans to take as many humans with him as possible to continue to hurt God. Because God created heaven where he can be reunited with people. Well, people needed help to overcome the enemy so God sent laws and formulas for worship and sacrifice that should point people into a position of acting in love. And the enemy attacked it over time and twisted it until it became punitive. But God so loved us that He then sent His only son, Jesus, to break the curse of sin over mankind by bringing it down into the grave, paying the required price for it, and then conquering it by rising again! Jesus ascended to heaven after 40 days. So that we know through Him we can access a relationship with The Father. God made a way to reconcile with mankind and commune and have fellowship with them again! This is GOOD NEWS.
God also created us with free will. Just as we do not want to be married or in a relationship with someone who is forced and manipulated to be in the relationship (we do not want a partner who is chained and a prisoner to us), God also wants us to freely choose Him. Or we can choose to believe the devil’s lies and go to the devil’s punishment – hell. It is our choice.
I know this sounds like a children’s story. It is simple, moral, and almost imaginative. God made it simple so that even children can believe and be saved from the wrath to come. God wishes that no one parishes. He wants us to at least give a relationship with Him an honest try – and see that He is good. He says that if you repent and seek Him, you will find Him!
Now imagine if you will what it could be like to have your best friend be the creator of the universe, all-knowing, all-powerful, having all wealth, and super generous – not like a genie in a bottle granting wishes, but a friend with mutual respect and trust and love, who is willing to use His resources to help you. He is willing to talk to you can since he can see ahead, he can prepare you, position you, and protect you from all the craziness in this world. Oh, and all that crazy? It is the enemy knowing his time is short and working very hard to destroy people and distract them from being reunited with God.
It feels like just yesterday, I was crying laying on my floor, exhausted from trying to fix the mess I made. My sin and poor choices caused broken hearts and broken friendships and broken families and despair and death… yes, I made a huge mess of my life. As I lay there with no way I could fix anything, nor could I go on like that – God reached out to me and made me feel like He still loved me and was ready to help me through it. I had tried God before and it did not seem to work out the way I expected, how could He help me this time? As I thought I realized the last time I treated Him like a genie in a lamp and not as a loving and kind Father and Friend. So I looked up and shook my fists and said – fine! Ok! I surrender! I give up and will do things your way! Things can’t get any worse. BUT!! You MUST be a real God. You MUST be who the Bible says you are! You must be an ever-present help! You MUST be the: I AM! You MUST be the God of fire shut up in my bones! I expect to see the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, demons cast out, and addiction destroyed in people’s lives starting with mine!!! I expect life and relationship!
It is now years later and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, HE IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS! I have seen miracles. I have heard His voice. I have experienced Him personally. Oh, and I have to also put in the work because relationships go both ways. Not works like doing good things to earn heaven – that is NOT how this works. I have to put the work into the relationship, you know like talking to Him (because He talks back), spending time with Him (because we both enjoy being in each other’s presence), reading His word (I love learning about his stories and getting to know Him, He already knows me and this is how I can learn of Him), and worshiping Him (because He is faithful and just and worthy!) You know putting the work in as in keeping up on my side of the relationship.
In this world of lies – this simple truth is hard to understand. We can have a relationship with the Father through Jesus in the Holy Spirit.
Do you want to know the truth? Be able to discern lies? Know how to figure it all out in these confusing times and have peace? The Bible says Jesus is the truth. I have experienced it and it has changed my life. I was a whirlwind of sin, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and so much more. I was lost and I could not find my way, or find a truth, I numbed it with bad choices. Then I found Jesus, and truth while lying on my floor crying that day. He challenged me to accept Him, trust Him and follow Him and I challenged Him to be who He says He is – I found peace and deliverance from sin.
If you want a relationship with God without truth you will get the counterfeit, hypocritical Christianity that has kept some of you away for too long. You need truth and a relationship. You need to be honest with yourself and God (including honest repentance) and the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to you. It becomes the two-way, interaction that your relationship with God is built on. This is why Jesus is called the truth because he is our only way to the Father.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me, through a real personal relationship, to grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus, I pray ~ Amen
If you have said this life-changing prayer and really want a relationship with God, please reach out to me. You can reach me in the comment section here (comments need approvals so you can use it as an email to me and I will not publish / approve it), or you can PM me on Facebook or DM me on Instagram. I do not always have instant access to my accounts, but I will respond when I check them. I would like to follow up and let you know the next steps to forming a healthy relationship.
Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your Word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your Word and our sound mind. And please keep us, bless us, shine your face upon us, pour your grace over us, and give us peace! And we pray for the peace of Jerusalem! Thank you! – In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
Today’s reading is found in the Book of Acts, chapter 9, at verse 1 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV).
The Damascus Road: Saul Converted
9 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. [a]It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Acts 9:1-9 NKJV
MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:
“But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” Luke 9:55-56 KJV
I paused and wanted to start this on Monday, but there are no more passages between that I can stretch out, so I will trust God’s plan. Today we return to Paul’s Story.
First of all, the custom when Paul was born was to give their child two names at birth. There was the Hebrew name used in the Jewish community and then the Romanized name usually Greek. Therefore Saul of Tarsus – was name Saul for the Hebrews and Paul for the Gentiles. Luke, the author, was a gentile and used his gentile name in this story after this chapter. Why did Luke change what name he was using? It could be because Saul was a terrible Jew who killed Christians and after today’s reading He became a loving Christian who loved other Christians as well as the Gentiles.
We also see Simon, one of the disciples of Jesus, start being called by his Gentile name – Peter. Jesus Himself seemed to encourage it when He pointed out that Peter means rock, and that He was going to use that moment as the rock he built the church on.
John either did not have a gentile name or he just never used it, so not everyone participated in this tradition. Some Bible characters we only know by their gentile names like Marcus and Barnabas are both very Greek names.
Last time we discussed Saul/Paul – He was promoted among the Pharisees and was in charge of the Special Forces that would hunt Christians and imprison them. According to the Bible and what is stated, he was only responsible for one death and he did not actually participate, he just oversaw it. However, many believe it is implied that he did not just imprison Christians, but was also the overseer of many deaths. Either way, this man loves God and wants to please Him, but is acting as an agent of satan himself.
Paul is an excellent example of the modern church. Many love God in their own way and are trying to please Him in their own way and are so far off base that they are actually acting as an agent for the enemy. These are the most difficult Christians to save!
Many who believe the “once saved always saved” concept that gives permission to live swimming in sin and think they are safe from the wrath to come – are a difficult group to convince otherwise.
Many who have become yoked to pride and the spirit of religion, say they love God and even though they look down on others and have no love for others – are a difficult group to inform that they are the Pharisees who killed Jesus and are outside of His will!
Many who are just good people, whose works are naturally good and kind, and therefore they think they are heaven bound and do not need a relationship with Christ, because they are not sinners – are also a difficult group to save.
Let us look at Paul, see how he bought the lie, and how therefore it would be easy for you and me to also be deceived. Then let us ALWAYS filter our hearts, mind, and secrets through the Word to see if there is any evil way in us. The true difference between Saul and Paul is that Paul was a good repenter. Paul let God make him into something new.
“1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Paul was scouring Jerusalem for Christians, also called followers of the Way, when he decided to branch out. He and only a few men were going to move to the next city and do the same while the main group remained in Jerusalem. In other words, Paul was about to grow his efforts and indeed got permission to.
“3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Some say he was knocked off his donkey which was a popular means of travel. It would seem but the nature of the passage that he was walking and so was his small group. They probably had donkeys to carry their things. it is fun, though, to say he was knocked off his ass.
It is also said that everyone saw the light glow around him, but he was the only one in it and he must have looked it in.
“5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Jesus said He leaves the 99 to go after the 1. We see it in practice. Jesus came to Paul. Jesus did not wait for Paul to hit rock bottom and come to him.
If we recall, Stephen’s prayer was: Jesus, forgive him. And Jesus did.
If you and I are praying for unsaved loved ones, we need to forgive them as Stephen forgave Paul. And we need to ask the Lord to forgive our loved ones. It is a powerful and under-utilized tool. But we cannot pray and use it as a tool, it must come from our hearts, we must first be doing life with Jesus in such a way that we love even when we are hurt by people.
Jesus points out very directly that Paul’s plan is against the very God he loves – that is what “kick against the goads” means. It means going against the very thing you are trying to accomplish. Paul was trying to please God and making God pretty mad in the process.
“6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Have any of you cried out to God in a moment when God convicted you of what you were doing – and asked, what do you want me to do then?!?! And God doesn’t answer! Often when God brings discipline, you have to sit in this transition for a moment.
“7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.”
Talk about being called out! Right in front of his group!
If you have an area of sin you are blind to, ask God to reveal it to you privately so you do not have to go through this publicly! He is a merciful God. – However, God used this to change those men too. You see, those men also had the authority to bring followers of the way to Jerusalem and NONE of them seized Paul or the believers they were about to meet.
“8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.”
Later we will learn that when Paul was in the light scales grew over his eyes to protect him from the light and from seeing the Glory. God is so gentle with us even when correcting us. Although, God left those scales on his eyes for three days to teach Him a lesson.
“9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
Yes, 3 days. Like the fast-for-deliverance that Esther had. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale. Like Jesus raised from the dead. Paul literally had 3 days to die to himself and be made new.
Paul did not have to fast during those days. But he was a good Jew and believed the scriptures and knew he needed deliverance and help and in the Old Testament, fasting was the best way to get God’s attention, as people say.
Obviously, we already have his attention, and self-deprivation only causes us to reflect more inwardly and clear out some of the stuff that isn’t God so by us fasting He can get our attention!
Paul’s fast was His response to Jesus, saying: Yes, Lord, You have my attention.
And he was healed and given new direction… oh wait, I am getting into next week’s studies already. I’ll wait.
Please join us tomorrow while we read from the wisdom books without commentary and join me back here on Monday as we continue to “go” through the book of Acts.
Are you interested in learning more about fasting? Join the Facebook group, designed to be interactive and give you all the Bible verses on fasting, all the types of fasting, and how to fast! In the group are specialists to help us along the way, like the creator of The Fasting Protocol (fasting for health and weight loss; which is part of fasting and important to know about – He can also speak to fasting in a healthy manner). Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/509149707741862
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Thank you for reading in 2023 – a Year of Grace and Provision
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace. Walk in wisdom.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!