Friday, August 31, 2012

Being a BasketCase: Acts 9

When a person comes to faith in Christ, change happens that is both instant and incremental. For example, based in 2 Corinthians 5:17, the old person that was dead in sin is gone and the new person is present. Spiritual new birth is akin to physical birth: one moment you’re not born, the next you are born.

So there is an instantaneous component to Christian salvation. It is often the case that this moment rights many of the wrongs in person’s life. In salvation, the lost are found by God and the Holy Spirit indwells new believers. In that moment, the pieces are put in place that provide the spiritual resources for a new Christian to grow into a mature disciple of Jesus. Often, that is where old hatreds and addictions melt away—for coming to the Cross we often see first our own need for grace and then the provision of grace not only for ourselves but for others. When we see the cost of our sin, it is hard to hold hatreds in our heart that Jesus died to redeem.

However, salvation does not always solve all problems. It does solve the biggest problem: life without God, for when we are redeemed we are brought into a right standing before God. However, even in providing the spiritual resources to address our lives, sometimes coming to the faith causes us a different set of problems.

Let us take Saul, for instance, in Acts 9 (link). He starts the chapter as an enemy of Christ. His goal is to eliminate the influence of this new group that follows “The Way.” He’s worked on this in Jerusalem, and is now moving up the road to Damascus to work toward the same goal.

On the way, though, he is blinded by a light. More clearly, he’s blinded by the light that is the radiance of Jesus. This is his moment: Saul becomes a new man in Christ that day. You see his bitterness and rage against Christianity melt away and he wants to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

Which is great. It just brings along a whole new set of issues.

First, Saul struggles for acceptance from the Christian crowd. This is their former enemy, and those memories are not lightly forgotten.

Second, Saul realizes rejection from his old crowd. They are not willing to accept his newfound religious beliefs, they do not want his changed lifestyle.

What happens? The man becomes a basketcase. Sort of: while in Damascus, he has become accepted by the Christians. They protect him from those seeking his life and lower him over the city walls in a basket. From this, I take a safe assumption that either Saul was very light or Damascus Christians were quite strong.

From there, he’s off to Jerusalem. Here he preaches and teaches, but trouble follows him. So, he gets sent back home to Tarsus. We lose him for a few chapters here, but that’s the situation. He’s gone from a respected Pharisee to a basketcase, all because of surrendering to Christ.

With this in mind:

First: coming to faith in Christ, surrendering to Jesus, puts you in a right standing with God. That is about the single most important thing in this life—so it’s a good thing for you, just as it was for Saul.

Second: the world in which we live is sin-soaked and quite the mess. The people who are enthralled by the world are not going to accept those faithful to Christ. There may be acceptance for some time or on some issues, but in all? Not going to happen for the long-term.

Third: that sin-soaked world? The bad things that happen will keep happening, and that includes bad things happening to you. Even with your faith. Be ready.

Fourth: As a follower of Christ, you are not in this alone. Certainly we have the presence of God, but we should also have our fellow disciples. If you are trying to live the isolated Christian life, keep this mind: you occasionally need someone to put you in a basket.

Fifth: As a follower of Christ, be around to help put your fellow Christians in baskets. We all need it sometimes :)

Today’s Nerd Note: The street called Straight in Damascus still exists. Check it out through any decent archaeological study guide! Never forget, no matter how nerdy you may be, that the events of Scripture happen to real people in a real place during real time.

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