Greetings of peace,

When we are asked whether we believe in the Lord Jesus, as Christians, we would spontaneously answer that we believe in Him. But if the question comes under threats of being exiled or murdered as done by ISIS, would we still be consistent with our answers?

How was the experience of Apostle Paul related to His following toward the Lord Jesus? He was actually reminded not to go to Jerusalem because he would face affliction but he kept going because he confessed himself as the prisoner of the Holy Spirit that he no longer acted according to his own will (Acts 20:22; 21:10-13).

Several years before, Saul (before known later as Paul) who was changed totally after encountering Jesus had been reminded by the Holy Spirit to come out of Jerusalem because the people there refused to receive him for they knew who he was before (Acts 9). Did he lose his courage to face the threat of affliction if he went to Jerusalem to testify who Jesus was? He was really militant to face the challenge that could endanger his life. What were the causes?

Paul experienced an encounter with Jesus
Paul testified how his life was transformed totally after encountering Jesus. He explained that He was a Jewish, taught by the great teacher Gamaliel about the Law (Acts 22:3); he was a Pharisee and a Pharisees descendant (Acts 23:6); he was also applying the religious rules strictly but he did not believe in Jesus. That is why he went after the followers of Christ (with the authority letter from the synagogue of Damascus; Acts 9:2) and brought them to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:4-5). But on his way to Damascus he met Jesus and was changed totally then turned to be the messenger of Christ.

One day he was facing the Pharisees, the head priests, the Saduccees who had different prespectives (Acts 23:6) though understanding the Law. For instance: the Pharisees were being hypocrites, being godly only to be seen by others as a whitewashed tombs on the outside to be seen clean, yet the inside were filled with bones and many filths (Matthew 23:25-28). In this kind of condition, their godliness will not touch their hearts. It is true that they believed in angels or the spirit, also in resurrection but they did not believe Jesus as the Messiah. It was different from Paul, a Pharisee who lived with a pure conscience before God (Acts 23:1).

He believed that Jesus, who died and rose, was able to touch and sanctify someones heart. On the other hand, the Saduccees did not believe in the resurrection, angels and the spirit (Acts 23:8). Before them, Paul kept on testifying that a great chaos aroused and he was arrested by the Romans to the homebase (Acts 23:9-10). Fortunately, he was a citizen of Rome that they did not dare to treat him wrongly (v. 27).

Apostle Paul was so brave and consistent with his testimony without thinking about the situation and condition around him. He was captivated, if he was not careful in his speech he would be in worse condition; even a group of 40 people swore to kill him (Acts 23:12).

Did the murder threat make Paul terrified? It did not. He was moved to Caesarea, the capitol of Rome in Israel and was brought to Felix, who was close to Caesar. Pauls fate was in Felixs hands, if Paul was not careful in speaking, he could be punished, yet he was not afraid.

What testimony affected so many people that they threated, even wanted to murder Paul? That there is resurrection for all who died (Acts 24:15,21) including Jesus who died and rose again (Acts 25:19)

Why did Apostle Paul have a conviction of the resurrection of the dead? He was confinced  that whoever believed in Jesus and His Word had eternal life and would not be punished because he had been moved from death to life (compare John 5:24).

Introspection: We celebrate Good Friday and Passover, but do we believe that Jesus died, but then rose from the dead? Are we brave enough to take our faith into account when we are under the threat of affliction even to be killed to deny Him as done by the ISIS?

Apostle Paul was so brave to sacrifice himself for Jesus Christ because he himself experienced that Christ died because of mens sins, inclusdng his, according to the Scripture (I Corinthians 15:3-4, 6), it means he had read the Old Testament especially Isaiah 53:5 although he previously did not believe that Jesus died bearing sins.

Introspection: do we like to read the written Scripture  Bible  that describes the suffering of Jesus? Do not imitate the attitude of Thomas who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus before seeing the nail pierced hands and before he plucked his hand into His stomach (John 20:25).

Blessed are those who do not see yet believe (v. 26). In deed, Apostle Paul did not see in person when Jesus was crucified, but he became a believer because of reading the Bible. He must have read Psalm 16:10 that wrote God did not let death control His saints.

Apostle Paul admitted that he was the least of the apostles because he had abused Gods people (Acts 9:1-2) but then he received Gods grace and did not take it for granted by working harder than others (I Corinthians 15:7-10). He must have read the Law that a murderer would not receive a part in the kingdom of heaven but he was not punished when he encountered Jesus whom he persecuted (Acts 9:5) that made him repented, baptized (born again) and infilled with the Holy Spirit to be the Lords militant messenger.

How about us? Have we met the Person of Jesus and live in His grace that we are freed from the punishment of death? And have we testified to win others that they also believe and receive salvation? Remember, Jesus died because of our transgression and rose to justify, sanctify and redeem us (Romans 4:25; I Corninthians 1:30). Sanctification must happen continually until we reach perfection and the blood of Jesus sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:12) even to sanctifiy our wicked conscience (Hebrews 10:22) that is the source of all evil (Matthew 15:19) and expressed in our words and actions.

Why should our conscience be good? So that we will have courage to face Him  in prayer, we could feel so close to the Father and our prayers are answered by Him; when reading the Word of God, we understand His will and the Holy Spirit guides us not to astray from the path of righteousness.

Application: our encounter with Jesus transforms us and encourages us to work diligently serving Him in any condition  blessings or persecutions.

Paul experienced life transformation
Sauls (Pauls) life changed totally after encountering Jesus, the heart that once full of hatred toward Jesus followers changed into full of compassion toward those who have not known Him. His old life was buried that no longer become the slave of sin and resurrected with a new life for God (Romans 6:5-6, 10).

Introspection: is it true that our old life had been buried? Or we confess to be Christians but are still slaves of sin by loving the wicked and filthy old life? Remember, our old life had been crucified in His death and He rose to make us the servant of truth and live for Him. Could we say that we have experienced life changes (e.g. no longer smoking) but never apply godliness or serve the Lord inappropriately depending on our mood?

The sign of those who left their old lives and return to the Lord is to live for God in Christ Jesus, no longer obeying the will of the flesh, not surrendering our parts of body to sin, to be used as the armor of wickedness and not being under the Law but under grace (Romans 6:11-14). Therefore, we love Gods Word more, faithful in our godliness and diligent in our service.

Honestly, we are not immune toward the temptations to return to our old lives, but as we read and listen to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is as an alarm that reminds us not to astray from the footsteps of Jesus.

What were Pauls responses after knowing Jesus who died and resurrected and gave him the gift of salvation? 
Phillipians 3:7-14 wrote:
What he previously considered gain was released and considered rubbish. It is because Jesus enabled him.
He received the gift of faith and truth from God.

Knowing Christ Jesus and His power of resurrection.
Having a fellowship with His afflictions to gain resurrection from the dead.
Forgetting whats behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Apostle Paul put off all old life burdens which were full of sins and worked harder for the Lord even to run after the heavenly calling.

Application: we need to be shepherded to be brought to the godly purpose; if not, we are as astrayed sheep being lost and wandering around, holding to our own truth. Speed is also needed in running after our purpose, not to do it relaxingly  if we miss a train we still have other options (by car, plane, etc.) to reach our destination, but to be left behind in chasing the heavenly calling, will bring no other chance to reach it. We also cannot run if we are still burdened by sin because we are not willing to let it go. The resurrection of Jesus freed us from the heavy burden of sin that we can run after and gain the heavenly calling.

Is it enough that we know God well, leaving our sins and run after the heavenly calling serving the Lord and gain life transformation? There is another thing to be done, that is: to greatly rejoice, though now for a little while have been grieved by various trials to prove the genuineness of our faith (I Peter 1:3-7)

Each of us (trader, employee, housewife, children, and so on) surely experiences various tests and temptations (as long as we are living on earth) with the purpose of purifying our faith.

Does the experience of Apostle Paul also become our experience related to the death and resurrection of Jesus? Had we personally experienced encountering Him that cause us to be courageous and militant in any kind of ministry whatever the risk is? Let us pursue the heavenly calling although facing trials and temptations to rise together with Him and become more than conquerors. Amen.


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