He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 17: An Incredible Surprise
At a young age he had already advanced well beyond his peers. Educated in the best schools, he was recognized as one of the most influential religious leaders in one of the best-known cities of the world. His morals were impeccable and his wisdom knew no equal.
But all was not as well on the inside as it appeared on the outside. For all his diligence and wisdom, something ate at him deep from within. He was an angry man. He rarely let it show except in acceptable moments of righteous indignation, but in times alone he knew it was there blackening his soul. His zeal to be the best servant of God in his generation had not led him to the lap of a loving Father, but to the cruel tyranny of his own ego. He had started out with a desire to serve God, but that passion had quickly been consumed by his desire for spiritual status. He loved the looks of admiration and awe that he saw in the eyes of his friends and mentors.
Then one day, on a journey to a distant city he came face to face with the Living God. His encounter was far more dramatic than most. A bright light appeared out of nowhere, knocking him off his horse and blinding his eyes. As he lay there in the dirt, a voice rumbled over his body. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
His next words are quite revealing. "Who are you, Lord?"
He knew he had come face to face with the living God, and now he wasn't sure who he was. But wait! Didn't the voice say Saul had been persecuting him? Surely Saul must have wondered in those brief seconds, "Could this be Jesus?"
What if it was? Saul had killed so many of his followers and was on his way to kill many more. He regarded them as heretics and sought to crush them and their teaching before they could destroy the faith he had embraced since his youth.
Finally the voice spoke again, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
His worst fears had been realized. The people he had killed in God's name were in fact God's people. What would come of him now? What punishment awaited him in his blind helplessness? Like a man who closes his eyes, cringing in anticipation of being struck by a raised fist, he slowly realizes that no punch is coming. There was no anger, no vengeance.
Saul, later to become Paul the Apostle, had come face to face with the God he had actively warred against, and in that moment all he found was love. The Jesus he had persecuted loved him. He had not come to punish him, but to open his spiritual eyes to see God not as he imagined him to be, but God as he really was. In that moment Saul discovered God's favor when he had done absolutely nothing to earn it. Instead of being punished, he received an invitation to come into the family he had tried so hard to destroy. Instead of the death he'd brought to others, he was offered life that he never knew existed.
Saul was left with one inescapable fact. He had done nothing to propel himself above the favor line, but found himself there nonetheless. He found that Jesus had loved him even when he had no idea who he was. For Jesus had shattered the favor line to free Saul from its tyranny. It changed him more than all he'd learned about God previously.
This is where relationship with God begins. It may sound impossible especially if you've hoped for this in the past and you have only been disappointed by how remote he seemed when you needed him the most. All you knew to do was try even harder to be good enough to win his affection.
But such thinking will never lead you closer to him. Instead of teaching you to love him, it only cements your fear of him even firmer. He wants to break this cycle the only way he can-by making his favor a gift instead of something you could earn. Finding favor with God has nothing to do with what we do for him, but what he has already done for us.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. -Psalm 51:1-2