If you look at the news, you might be overwhelmed with the headlines about radical conversions. People never to have been thought of to convert to Christianity, are all of a sudden being converted. But the question lingering is can what is being played out be trusted? This post will center around Paul's conversion story with 21st Century examples.
Saul, the Converted Pharisee
Saul of Taurus (later renamed Paul by Jesus) was a well known public figure in his time, even before his conversion story. He was a scholar, a Jew, a Roman citizen, and a Pharisee in the Judaism hierarchy. He was present when Stephen, the first martyr for Christ, was executed by stone. His persecution was far-reaching. He had followed for some time Jesus' disciples in hopes of killing them and keeping them from persuading others of their heresy. He was, for all intents, a murderer. His story is recorded in Acts and branches into Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians after the twelve disciples are chosen, named, and Judas replaced. Even though his story is recorded throughout these books, I don't believe it truly started there. I believe that God had been working on his heart the entire time, even behind the scenes.
For time and space purposes, I will put a link for the book of Acts. This is the meaty portion of Paul's conversion.
The focus of this post will be on Acts 9:1-17
"Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and as eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them--both men and women--back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
"Who are you, lord?" Saul asked.
"And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do."
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone's voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind. So his companions led him by the and to Damascus. He remained there, blind for three days and did not eat or drink. Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, "Ananias!"
"Yes, Lord!" He replied.
The Lord said, "Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again."
"But Lord," exclaimed Ananias, "I've heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name."
But the Lord said, "Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake."
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Instantly something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward, he ate some food and regained his strength." (Acts 9:1-17, NIV).
A Few Things to Note
Before we continue, let's make a note about some things mentioned in this excerpt.
The author of Acts is Luke, written between about A.D. 63 and 70.
Pentecost had already happened and now the Holy Spirit dwelled inside believers.
Signs were being demonstrated through the disciples.
This passage is by no means encouraging the Charismatic Movement of today nor the "faith healers." You may have noticed that periodically, scripture will change the tense of "Lord" (or LORD) to represent which person in the trinity is speaking or being referred to.
LORD refers to "Yahweh" or "YHWH" in the formal Jewish term. This is a reference to God the Father.
"Lord" references Jesus the Son.
Even though the word "trinity" isn't mentioned in the Bible, the doctrine still exists.
See more on the attributes of God in the articles below.
The Attributes of God
Attributes of God: Letter A
The God of Perfect Holiness
Saul's conversion is nothing short of radical. In fact, it was so unbelievable that the disciples were afraid of him.
"When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul has seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. So Saul stayed with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. When the believers heard bout this, they sent him down to Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus, his hometown" (Acts 9:26-30, NIV)
What's the difference between Paul's mesmerizing conversion and what is seen by false teachers? Paul didn't add or subtract from Jesus' gospel. He didn't equate himself equal to God. He started to notice how bankrupt he was and it was a wound that his titles couldn't mend. We see evidence of his conversion later on in Acts and in his future books, not an outward conveyance of falsity.
Furthermore, these points lead me to the topic of radical converts of today.
Read more from Living Waters regarding Kayne West here.
Enter now, Justin Bieber.
How insane it is the similarities in culture from today and the disciples' time. It is natural to be skeptical of other's conversions, and God instructs His followers to be discerning, what most would say "don't be judgmental." But is being skeptical about one's conversion judgmental? Is it really truly judging in condemnation when it comes to the soul? Emeal ("E.Z.") Zwayne, the President of Living Waters, answers this question in the same article linked above mentioning Kayne.
The Abundant Life
Watch the video above fully, past the interview of Justin Beiber. Ray Comfort, CEO of Living Waters, talks about the misrepresentation of the Gospel by those who preach "God has a wonderful purpose for your life" as he notes that the same God that people have "snuggled up to their whole lives and treated like a butler" is the same God that they will have to answer to when their lives are over. He references 9/11. He gives a demonstration that when evangelizing, people need to hear the sin complex. Often times, the good news without mentioning sin is the only thing people want to talk about.
But God didn't say this life would be easy for the Christian. Every believer will face opposition at one point or another, earlier or later than others. For some, it will cost them their lives.That is the cold reality of being a follower. The deaths at the hands of ISIS in today's society and the case of Daniel Holtzclaw (a Christian police officer of Oklahoma accused of multiple accounts of rape by women of Black Lives Matter and whose case broke headlines and shone a light on sketchy investigative work in the Oklahoma Buerea) are testimonies of this. When speaking to Ananias, Jesus even said that "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:16, NIV) in regards to Saul (later changed to Paul).
For more on the sin complex, see my article The Myth's Complex.
Contrast of Fruits
Martyred for Christ
For more information regarding the Daniel Holtzclaw case, see the video below.
Food for thought today: this world will end. On what side of eternity will you be on?
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Human Trafficking: The Bondage of Today
Photo credit ChameleonsEye at Shutterstock
The literal definition of a slave is “a person bound in servitude; one who has lost his liberty and has no rights” (NLT Dictionary and Concordance, pg 799). There are those bound in slavery to sin or to Christ (to death or to eternal life). Human trafficking is probably the largest network of slavery today. There are over 167 countries that still contain slavery today including the following
The Democratic Republic of Congo
Below are numbers of countries with an estimated amount of slaves as of 2019.
North Korea: 1.1 Million
Uzbekistan: 1.2 Million
Bangladesh: 1.5 Million
Pakistan: 2.1 Million
China: 3.4 Million
India: 18.4 Million
statistics are taken from World Population Review.
India leads the way to the highest slave count in the world in which all forms of slavery exist such as:
forced child labor
commercial sex exploitation
forced recruitment into a non-state armed group
Lending a Hand Campaign
Pin taken from my Pinterest profile at https://www.pinterest.com/fb2695/ under the board “Lending a Hand Campaign”
These numbers and the stories behind the numbers are why Blissful Faith is partnering with nonprofit organizations to help fund rescues and recovery programs for those entrapped in bondage. Each number is a person. You can be the one to help make a difference by purchasing a shirt (coming soon to the blog in a few weeks) or by ordering a downloadable product currently in the store, in which proceeds will go to nonprofits that seek to give a voice to the voiceless. See more on human trafficking from my previous articles below:
The Price of Freedom
Blissful Faith started as a lifestyle and branched into a blog to help others hear about Jesus Christ and how they too can develop a blissful faith through knowing God. This blog’s purpose is to be an evangelical outreach to further the kingdom of Christ. Furthering the kingdom means stretching outside of the comfort zone, comprehending and working towards meeting the needs of others. Putting faith to action keeps it from becoming stagnant.
The Blissful Faith Merchandise store helps both this blog to grow and to meet the needs of others. About 8-10% of the proceeds will go to The Exodus Road and Agape International Missions to help combat human trafficking. The funds will help assist in rescue operations, providing shelter, and recovery programs to those in bondage.
Below is a link to other nonprofit organizations currently working around the globe to help aid those in bondage in human trafficking: