The natural man is born once but dies twice, but Christians are born twice and only die once. We’re all born the first time physically … on the day we come from our mother’s womb and fill our lungs with air for the first time. Christians are born again – a second birth – when they come alive in Christ. Spiritually, they are a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
All of us die physically. Sadly, the unregenerate man (the one who is only born once) also dies spiritually. For Christians, however, real living begins the day they close their eyes in death here on earth and open their eyes in the place prepared for them to spend eternity.
Let’s think for a little while about the day when Saul of Tarsus, a hired hitman, experienced his second birth.
He was traveling on a road outside of Damascus. If this hadn’t happened, it’s possible that many people living in the Western world would have never heard of that ancient city. Damascus was an occupied city a thousand years before Rome was even a tiny village on the north edge of the Palatine hill. Damascus was ancient when the Apostle Paul (still unsaved and going by his birth name, Saul) headed there to capture and kill the Christians that had fled as refugees from Jerusalem. But for Christians around the world and down through the centuries, Damascus was “placed on the map” by the Lord Jesus’ action just outside the city.
Saul was leading a detachment of armed men toward the gates of the city. Suddenly a light came from heaven and flashed all around Saul. (The word in Greek describes a light that rushed around Saul in a tight circle, almost like a lightning that swirled AROUND Saul.)
He fell to the ground, and suddenly … a voice.
THE DOOR STANDS OPEN BETWEEN EARTH AND HEAVEN.
Strangely, we always think of it as a voice booming down from above Saul, but the three places where his conversion is described never even ONCE say that.
This encounter is more terrifyingly intimate than that. The swirling light created a wall between Saul and his companions, and the voice, it seems, spoke from RIGHT THERE …
Honestly, I think that for a sworn enemy of Jesus, the most horrifying thing imaginable would be to hear that voice speaking quietly right … in … your … ear.
Has it ever really occurred to you that there is an open doorway now between heaven and earth, and Jesus ALWAYS watches what happens to us?
And He doesn’t watch from a distance, spying down on us with a telescope from the ramparts of heaven. It might be more accurate to think of Him as among us, just beyond the spectrum in which we can see.
Jesus is strongly interactive in our world. He is a factor, and wherever He chooses to act, He is the deciding factor.
And Jesus doesn’t only observe our lives. He experiences them WITH us!
Did you catch that in Acts 9 verse 4? Jesus did NOT say, “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting my people.” He said something that would have been MUCH more unsettling to Saul. He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” You think you are persecuting THEM, but you are persecuting ME.
Not only does Jesus watch what happens to us, but somehow, in a sense almost too mysterious and deep to be understood, He experiences it with us. This is a great mystery.
- A woman is battered by an abusive husband, and Jesus experiences the pain of her bruises.
- A Christian is tortured for his faith, and Jesus absorbs that pain as well.
- A young Muslim becomes a believer, and when he is baptized, he is driven from his village to starve and freeze. There is some sense, just beyond our ability to understand it, in which Jesus starves and freezes, too.
There will NEVER be anything that we suffer, that we suffer alone. This is a profound mystery. We share in His suffering (1 Peter 4:13). And He shares in ours. “Surely He took up our pain and bore our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).
WHEN JESUS COMES INTO OUR LIVES, HE COMES AS A KING WHO HAS A RIGHT TO BE OBEYED.
Did you notice verse 6?
Immediately, Jesus acted just like Jesus always has. HE gave the orders; and in this case, they were sealed orders as well.
Now, listen. I don’t fully understand this story. With most people, Jesus stands at the door and knocks. In this story it almost appears as if He kicked the door in, strode in, and sat down.
Let’s be frank: The unusual testimony of Paul was that he was steamrolled on the way to Damascus.
Not that Saul was ever sorry! He became a passionate and devoted follower of Jesus. But his conversion story is unusual, and it tells me that I dare not put God in a box and say, “He’ll always do it this way.”
Jesus took charge of Paul’s life, and He never stopped. “Go into the city, and you will be told what you MUST do.” When Jesus enters our lives, He doesn’t come to take part, He comes to take over.
Now because some of us are a little hard-headed, we don’t get that fact right away. That doesn’t change the Lord’s nature. He doesn’t come into your life to be an enhancement to your plans. He comes in to fulfill your destiny on earth, the reason for which He made you.
What a gift!
Now it’s your turn. Here are a few questions to spark your conversation with Jesus.
- What does it mean to you that Jesus is constantly interactive with your life on earth?
- How does it make you feel that Jesus has entered into whatever you have experienced?
- How have you experienced Jesus moving into your life and taking over recently?
- What part of His suffering is your mantle to wear?
- What glory will you share for going through that suffering?
MAY THE LORD USE THESE THOUGHTS TO DRAW YOU EVEN CLOSER TO HIM.
© Rev. Steve Jones, October 2020