Links Daily Devotional

The Sweeping Away of History

But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:3, NIV)

One of the things many of you love about Jim Hiskey and the devotions he writes in this space are the way they bring in the history of the game as he experienced. You’ll find mountains more history further back, of course, through Byron Nelson and Betsy Rawls to Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet, Harry Varden, and the Tom Morrises, young and old.

It was a wholesale change delivered on the wings of God’s mercy.Each of us too has a history. It has shaped us, defined us, and hopefully refined us. But what it also does is accuse us. Looking back, we find the embarrassment of sins, both those committed with godless intent and those fallen into by bad planning or bad resolve. More truthfully, we don’t have to look back to see this sin. The consequences are here now, in our present, painfully calling attention to who we were.

Wait, is that true? Is my sinful self who I was, or who I am?

To answer that question, we must begin here: Am I in Christ? If I am not, then I am still in my sin, given over to passions that capture my attention even though I recognize they are “not good for me.” That’s an understatement! More completely, they are putting me to death.

If instead I am in Christ, believing in him and the salvation he has bought by this blood and surrendered to the work of his Spirit in my life, the opposite is true. I have put sin to death—or Christ has done so in me.

Paul wrote it like this to the Ephesians: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:1).

The beauty of this passage is that Paul was himself a complete picture of the person made new—once dead, now living.

In Acts 8, we find Paul’s disturbing history. In verse 1, it was noted that he was there at the stoning of Stephen, “giving approval to his death.” Two verses later, he is seen dragging those who called Jesus Messiah off to prison. The church fell into “great persecution” and Paul stood at the head of that abuse.

Paul’s change was recorded a chapter later, when on the road to Damascus he was confronted by Christ himself and called to love the church and spread the truth about Jesus. The change was more than one of name, from his birth-given Saul. It was a wholesale change delivered on the wings of God’s mercy.

“For you have heard…how intensely I persecuted the church of God,” Paul confessed to the Galatians. But then Paul was “called by God’s grace” and in time the believers were hearing the news: “They only heard this report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1:13, 23-24).

I don’t know your history, but I do know there was death in it. I know too that in Christ that death is exchanged for life. Go get that life today! May others praise God because of what he has done in you!

Jeff Hopper
May 22, 2017
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