Day 17: Acts 26:1-18
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
The conversion of Paul, although not the only example of conversion, is one of the most well-known and biblically documented conversions. It is important first of all for us to properly understand what we mean when we speak about conversion. Christian conversion is not the simple praying of a prayer or singular moment at an altar. Those are great introductory conversations with God, but they are only part of conversion. Christian conversion is the reorientation of one’s life to the way of Jesus. It is a strong beginning into the transformed life. Although the pattern of conversion found through the experience of Paul might not exactly match our experience, the calling of Paul is consistent with Jesus’ calling for us.
First, we are called to follow Jesus. More appropriately we are called to reorient, or center, our lives on loving God with our entire being. Religious conversion without following Jesus is not Christianity. Has your conversion reoriented your life?
Second, we are called to minister to others. Caring for and selflessly serving others comes easy to us when those we serve seem deserving. But what about those who seem like hypocrites, fake, undeserving, mean, and ignorant?
Are you answering the costly call to love, or selflessly serve others, without affirmation or appreciation?
Paul was called to Jews and Gentiles – those who were insiders and outsiders. Have you faithfully answered the call of Jesus to others in your life?
Phil Starr | Student Ministry Pastor