Tear Down the Walls: Galatians Part 1
Make sure you are in a place where you can focus for 10 minutes. Do one minute of deep breathing and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your reflection today.
When we look at the transformation of Saul into Paul, we must personalize it. Jesus transformed Saul into Paul because he wanted to use Paul for his purposes—to write letters and to give us good theology, but also so that we would have a vivid example of transformation set before us.
A key for us: to see how God redeemed Paul’s past—not just forgiving it, but transforming Paul’s previous life into usefulness in the Kingdom of Jesus. I am going to list a few things that I observe, and then I invite you to consider how the Lord might use your past for goodness in His Kingdom.
Paul reflects on his past life in his letter to the Philippians:
“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.”Philippians 3:5-6 NLT
In summary, Paul is saying:
- I had a pedigree – “a real Hebrew”
- I was disciplined – “strictest obedience”
- I was passionate – “so zealous”
But, then he goes on to say:
“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ…”Philippians 3:7-8 NLT
Paul recognized that what the world saw as valuable and admirable were nothing compared to Christ. And, in this humility, Jesus then took those things and redeemed them.
Paul’s pedigree gave him access. Paul was privileged to be both a Jew and a Roman Citizen. As a result, Paul was able to speak in the highest courts in the world at the time—all the while proclaiming Jesus. Jesus redeemed Paul’s pedigree into something useful.
Paul’s strict obedience did not merit him salvation, but Jesus used this hard working and dedicated man to carry the gospel into the known world. He endured immense hardship and persecution as a result. There is no doubt in my mind that the physical and mental fortitude Paul learned through “strict obedience” were incredibly helpful till the end of Paul’s life:
“Enduring suffering…as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”2 Timothy 2:3 NLT
Jesus redeemed Paul’s religious arrogance into something useful.
Paul’s passion (zeal) was so obviously erroneous (murderous threats…). But, the Lord used that zeal and that passion. We see how much Paul loved people. We see how Paul did not only work through complex theology, but we see how full of conviction and emotion his theological works were. Jesus redeemed Paul’s murderous passion into something useful. (Chris has written an excellent devotion on this—will be tomorrow’s reflection.)
How about you? What achievements or skills from your past might Jesus redeem? Consider your positive traits and experiences as well as the negative ones. How might Jesus creatively use the things that come to mind? Nothing is lost. His grace changes everything.