“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4).
When we meet Jesus and trust Him for the redemption of our soul, that encounter should be a life-changing encounter.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
True faith in Him secures our salvation, and works don’t make us any more saved. Works on earth done for the Glory of God do earn crowns in Heaven, and they also serve as a witness to others. If we desire to serve Jesus, He will teach us. It takes a lifetime of lessons to learn His ways, and applying the lessons He gives will mold us into more trusting followers who live by faith. If we are willing students, He’s a willing teacher.
Saul, also known as Paul, is an example. He was an angry man who hunted the Jewish converts to Christianity with vengeance.
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
He met the Messiah while travelling to Damascus, and all that changed. His encounter with the risen Lord left him blind. For a man of action, that must have been frustrating. There’s no record of Paul encountering Jesus prior to the crucifixion, but he must have heard about the miracles. Paul had studied under the most revered rabbi of the day, Gamaliel, who had certainly known of Jesus’ ministry. When Peter and James disobeyed an order to stop preaching about Jesus, the Pharisees wanted to kill them. It was Gamaliel who was the voice of reason.
“And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
Gamaliel admonished his fellow Pharisees to have patience and allow this new faith to just die out on its own. It’s been over 2,000 years, and it hasn’t died out yet. The remnant may be few, but our faith is strong.
Like so many people, Saul had “book learning,” but he had no real knowledge. His first encounter with Jesus left him blind, and that’s when God’s teaching began.
“And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus” (Acts 9:8).
The gang of thugs Saul traveled with had no idea what had happened, so they led him to Damascus and abandoned him. Old friends may abandon you when you meet Jesus, but don’t allow that to hinder your new faith in Jesus. Move forward and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. God has bigger plans for you than continuing in sin; and if you learn His ways, you can be a witness to those whom you once called friends.
“And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink” (Acts 9:9).
In truth, we’re all blind when we come to Jesus. Our first encounter with Him will show us just how blind we have been. Past prejudice and mocking of Him will turn to understanding of just how precious salvation through Jesus Christ is as the scales fall off of our eyes and we see Him in a new light. Even though we don’t understand everything, our encounter with Jesus should begin to change us. From that moment, we should desire to learn His ways. “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4) should be the desire of every Christian.
Saul’s idea of Christians was that they were blasphemers who opposed the Jewish Law established by God, and thus needed to be put to death. There are people today who have misconceptions about Christians. Muslims are required to do what they can to destroy us because we won’t worship their false god. The loony left also desires to destroy Christianity because Biblical moral values stand in the way of their pagan decadence. Gay pride parades turn into orgies, but if you try to help these people out of their sin, you are the lawbreaker.
Though Saul had been highly educated, once he met Jesus his real education began. He had to wait, which was a lesson in itself. His personality was such that he desired to jump right in with both feet and start serving Christ, but first he had to be shown the ways of the Living God. His blindness gave him time to think. He could do nothing; so, for three days, he was left to consider what had happened.
I often wonder what went through his mind during that time. Surely, he had heard of the blind men whom Jesus healed, but now his encounter left him blind. Did he think about his life and recognize his own sin? Most likely he prayed, but still there had to be some fear of what would happen to him. When God teaches lessons, they aren’t always easy. If we continue trying to live life on our own terms, we will miss the value of what God would have us to learn.
There were more lessons to be learned through that encounter than what Saul was being taught. Even people who’ve been Christians for many years have lessons to learn.
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord” (Acts 9:10).
Ananias was probably on the list to be arrested. He had no idea what Jesus would ask him to do, but he was willing. The details of God’s mission frightened him. He was to go to find Saul and heal his blindness. Could Jesus have healed Saul’s blindness without the help of Ananias? Yes, but He usually chooses to work through His followers. By stepping out in faith, we learn the lesson of trust. In this instance, Ananias wasn’t sure he had heard correctly. He knew who Saul was and the mission he was on, so he mentioned this detail to Jesus. It’s OK to ask questions, but we cannot allow questions to get in the way of obedience. Jesus assured him that Saul was chosen to serve Him.
“But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my names sake” (Acts 9:15-16).
It’s a blessing to many generations that Ananias obeyed and went to Saul. The change in Saul, now known as Paul, was evident. Because Ananias stepped out in faith and Paul was willing to be taught, Paul’s mission work changed from hatred to one of love and spreading the Gospel. Because of his enthusiasm for serving Jesus, we have his Holy Spirit-inspired letters to teach us lessons.
Every day we have lessons to learn. Do you still hold on to the old friends you had before meeting Jesus? If so, are they stunting your growth in Jesus? On the day of Pentecost, Peter had given a Holy Spirit-inspired sermon, and thousands gave their lives to Jesus. They didn’t hang on to old habits, but embraced their salvation.
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Was Ananias one who heard on that day? Whatever prompted his faith, we are shown evidence that he wasn’t stunted by old ways and sinful habits. His obedience to God led him to approach the man most feared by Christians. That obedience began a work by God that continues today.
Every one of us will have failures in our walk with Christ. That’s when we learn lessons. If you’ve been controlled by anger, learn to give that anger to Christ. Is your life ruled by lies and deceit? If so, you need to ask for forgiveness and learn the Christian way of truth. No matter what sin may stumble you, there is always forgiveness through Jesus, but you need to ask. If you don’t recognize your sin, then God is hampered in showing you His ways and teaching you lessons.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). That’s a blessed promise from God.
How do we learn the way to handle lessons from God? He has given us a precious gift. We have Scripture to guide us.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
The Bible contains lessons in life and how to react in a Godly way when we are tempted to sin. The book of Judges teaches us that if we don’t continue to follow God, we will continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Read the Psalms for lessons in overcoming fear, being broken over sin and repenting, and also singing praises to God. The book of Esther is a lesson in courage. The Gospels show us Jesus and how much He loves us. He shed His blood for our salvation. The New Testament letters give lessons in day-to-day Christian life. If you neglect studying your Bible, then you’re missing many lessons that God wants all of us to learn. Then, when a test of your faith comes along, you will fail. Allow God to show you His ways, and apply them to your life.
“Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:5).
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.
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