We all know of the blessed Apostle Paul, But how about the murderous and feared Pharisee Saul?
“Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. . . .
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. Acts 9: 13, 26
Paul had had a serious change of heart, but Ananias and later, the church in Jerusalem, were loath to trust this hot shot Pharisee. They thought they knew Saul. They knew what kind of a man he was, the hatred and evil he harbored. He had been certified dangerous and labeled accordingly. And no one was too keen on welcoming him in to their confidence, let alone their presence.
But Jesus had other ideas. He was changing the game, altering the narrative, and he knew exactly who was needed to accomplish this so that all might hear the gospel despite the seeming hopelessness of the cause.
He had used Saul’s bitterness to scatter the church, to begin the spreading of the word, and now he is going to wrestle him back from the enemy and use him to ultimately plant the gospel so deeply into the consciousness of the nations that it would never be removed—exactly the opposite of what Saul had in mind as his life was devoted to this point to eradicating all traces of the memory of this convicted blasphemer, Jesus of Nazareth, from the face of the earth.
But Saul had something in him God could use, something the rest of the church only saw as a bad thing. He had a zealousness for the things of God, a zealousness that had blinded him to truth, but one that the God he yearned for could turn in the right direction, once he let go of his bitterness.
And he had a vast knowledge of the Law and the prophets that God would use to help others see how Jesus had fulfilled the law and the prophets, and to set them free from the condemnation of the very law they used as a club to destroy those that God wanted to save.
No one else saw any of this, they only saw a religious fanatic who refused to listen to anything that might challenge his perfect and complete understanding of God’s word. He knew it all and you had better not question nor challenge him.
Unless of course, you are the Son of God himself. The Lord had waylaid on the waylaid Saul as he was set out to destroy his church, appearing to him in blinding glory.
And he (Saul) said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Immediately, Saul shows that he had the right stuff inside. He didn’t argue like Moses at the burning bush, or try to convince Jesus that he had made a mistake in choosing him like Peter in the boat, he just asked for direction. “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Right answer. Jesus had chosen the right man, despite the labels that had been slapped on him by others.
The world is very good at attaching labels to everyone. It seems to be a favorite tactic of the enemy these days especially as he uses politicians and the media to put everyone into neat little groups that are labeled in such a way as to be unable to intermix or abide by those who wear another label. We are all set against one another based on political leanings, religion, income, color, sex, health—you name it, class warfare is at a fever pitch.
At least that’s what they want us to believe. I don’t see it in the real world as much as we would be led to believe by the media and policy makers, but it’s there and getting worse.
Sadly, it’s just basic human nature being played against us on a grand scale—and we fall for it. But when you take God out of the picture, that’s all that is left, basic human nature. We seem to have this need to categorize everything and everyone and don’t you dare leave your pigeonhole.
It starts early. As kids we are labeled by others with labels we might be wearing for our entire lives either in the minds of others or in our own minds. Some we can never overcome and some we grow weary of trying to live up to. But those labels are often far from accurate.
The heart and soul of a person is virtually indiscernible without spending a lot of time and energy to discover it. And few people in our lives do that, and we often don’t even know ourselves that well. Some vessels are stopped up tighter than others.
You just never know do you, what might be inside that vessel, the labels on the outside or the condition of the container can be very deceptive. What do you see when you look into the mirror? Do you see the labels slapped on you by others? The dirt and scratches you acquired on the journey? Or do you see what Jesus sees?
We are really clueless it seems. Preconceptions cloud our vision also.
We all have a notion or an image in our minds of the kind of person God would call to represent him before many varied and powerful people, those he would entrust with great wisdom and insight to share in such a way that people receive it. And we all have a notion of who might not be qualified.
Many would even put themselves in that category of—Who me? A chosen vessel to bear his name before Gentiles, kings and Israelites? I seriously doubt it. Well, guess what, You do not get to decide if you are called or not, you only get to decide if you will answer the call. Only the Lord knows what your label truly reads, and not even you will know what that label says until the day you stand before him.
But in the meantime he will help you overcome the false labels the world, and yourself, have slapped on yourself.
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’
Regardless of what the world may call you, the Father calls you child.