“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 18

‘Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”’

Acts 9:1-4

“Oh, I don’t think God would want to listen to me…” “Well, I kind of know myself, and I’m pretty sure I’m not worth listening to…” “Why should He bother with me, you know, just given what I sometimes think, never mind what I sometimes do?”

These kind of thoughts are normal, both for people who believe in God, and for people who would like to believe, but don’t. Most of us have a pretty clear picture of our inner lives: our thoughts, emotions, and habits of mind. And on the basis of that picture, and a sense of who God is, we see a chasm between who we are and what we think God wants.

On some level, religious and non-religious people think they need to clean up their act, before God will bridge that chasm, and come to, speak with, and transform them. That feeling is like knowing that you should invite an important person to your home, but you want to be sure it’s perfectly clean, first. Totally understandable.

But if God is God, He already knows the state of your house. And he already knows you can’t clean it up by yourself – if you could, then why did He bother becoming one of us in Jesus? Why did he have to die on the Cross?

“I kind of know who I am, and what I’ve done, and I just don’t think he’d want to get anywhere near me…” How about “murderous threats”, like Saul? Or taking innocent people out of their homes, and throwing them in jail? Done any of that? Saul (Paul) did, and God didn’t wait until he cleaned up his act, first – Jesus came to him in a dramatic way, and said: “Stop. You belong to me. You are forgiven. Now go, and sin no more, and become a messenger of my grace.”

For Paul, that kind of dramatic encounter was what he needed: A man blinded by murderous rage, based in religious conviction, could only be reached by a light from heaven, and the audible voice of God. Maybe that’s not you. Maybe all you need is a blog post that says this: “Whoever you are, and whatever you’ve done, Jesus forgives you, and promises to transform you. So go to His people, and wade into his transforming grace – it is amazing!”

Prayer: Lord, when I think of just the thoughts I’ve had, over the past week, I doubt that you would want to listen to me, much less love me. But I see that your grace runs out to meet us, and transform us – we can’t do it on our own. Jesus, please take this short prayer, and begin a new life in and through me. I’m tired of living apart from you, and your people. Amen.

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