Conversion is a mysterious thing. In many ways you are a part of it when you take the step of following Jesus, but there is also the reality that much of it is happening with God, and you are along for the ride. I know many people feel like it is all them and they are choosing Team Jesus, but that isn’t found in Scripture. It is not all you.
If we get this wrong, it starts us off thinking about change incorrectly. Much of our culture thinks about change in what they can do and the willpower they have to accomplish change. Want to change something? Make a resolution. Want to stop something? Simply think hard enough. Need to be less negative? Simply think positively and it will happen.
Many Christians think this way and find themselves spinning their wheels. Change isn’t completely on us, and don’t miss this: We don’t have the power on our own to change.
Acts 9 is a well known passage that shows the change that happens in Saul as he becomes Paul and becomes the messenger that will take the gospel to the Gentiles. It also shows us how change and conversion work and the implications of them.
1. Salvation starts with God. Salvation is a gift from God. We do not deserve it, and it is given freely by God. There should never be any pride in you about being better than someone, because without God changing you, you are stuck and broken on your own.
We also see in Saul that no one is ever beyond the reach of God. Saul is a first century terrorist, killing people over religion, and yet God saves him.
This reality that salvation starts with God is what makes grace so amazing. What is incredible about a choice we make, an effort we put forth? Instead God, not needing to extend grace and forgiveness, does so.
2. There is a personal encounter with Jesus. We all meet Jesus differently, but when we begin following Jesus it is because we have an encounter with him. We begin to have knowledge of who He really is.
This is the step of receiving God’s free gift of grace, admitting you are broken, you are a sinner and you can’t fix yourself.
This is when we apply Romans 8:1, where Paul later wrote: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The moment we take that step of responding to God’s grace, our sins are wiped clean. Many times, though, we hold ourselves accountable for things God does not.
3. Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus. We often want to live our lives with a little bit of Jesus sprinkled on top. Saul calls him Lord, surrendering to follow Jesus no matter what. This is a crucial step. Jesus is not just your Redeemer and Savior; He is your King when you take the step of following Him.
4. Following Jesus always comes with a call to talk about Jesus. What we’re about to see is that immediately Saul started sharing about Jesus with others. The moment you become a follower of Jesus, you are called to tell people about Jesus.
It is easy to think God can’t use you or do anything with your life. After all, who are you really? You aren’t Billy Graham. Yet we are told that Stephen only had one convert (Saul), but he changed the world. You have no idea what God can do through you.
Right now there are people in your life that God wants to use you to reach.
While we know a lot about Paul’s teaching, writing, planting churches and developing leaders, God also made sure of something else in the Bible: that we knew Paul’s story. That we knew who Paul was. This is important as it relates to our story and how God changes us.
It’s also important because a lot of us can feel like our story is hopeless. We’re hopeless. We’re beyond redemption and forgiveness, beyond hope. Yet we aren’t. God is never finished with your story.