I’ve just finished reading the book of Acts...again. I really wish Peter Jackson or someone would make an epic movie about this amazing book. It’s full of suspense, peril, action, adventure, miracles... and the start and spread of the Church of Jesus Christ.
As I was reading the account of Paul encountering Christ on the road to Damascus, I was struck hard by the fact that Paul possessed such mind boggling confidence and courage because he proceeded in and received power from the Risen Christ, and not the Crucified Christ. Of course, Christ Crucified yields incredible power, but we are not to live there. Let me explain.
When we become believers, our old self is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians, 2:20). It dies a painful, humiliating death, and good riddance! But many of us proceed in this death. In other words, we focus on the crucifixion and not the resurrection. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Oh, I must put this sin to death or I’ll be punished. We feel guilt, shame, and condemnation that has no place (or reality, for that matter) in the life of a true Christ follower. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)! Living in the crucifixion is a real power buster, and keeps a follower of Christ in bondage.
As I continued to read about Paul’s astounding ministry, I realized that in his life he proceeded in Christ’s resurrection and not His death. He followed the living Christ with complete freedom and confidence because he knew Him, saw Him, experienced Him as the living Christ. That is where he lived, and that is from where he drew his power. Paul did not get hung up on his sin, although he was keenly aware of it and grieved over it from time to time. His focus was on Christ alone, and he was able to speak with confidence despite fierce opposition, dangerous journeys, stubborn colleagues, powerful government, and ignorant followers, because he had seen Christ first hand and knew what he knew without a doubt.
My good friend Betsy and I have sometimes mused about how we wish we could have confidence and courage like Paul. But then we try to let ourselves off the hook by remembering that he had the advantage of actual physical and audible encounters with Jesus. But recently I realized that we have something just as powerful as a physical encounter with Christ: God’s Word, which is literally the same thing! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Holy cow! Whenever we read the Bible, we are encountering the living God...Christ Himself. Literally! So we are without excuse when we say that Paul and the other first hand witnesses of Jesus had an advantage over us. We have the Word, the eternal Christ, on our bedside tables, in our purses, and on our phones! We don’t need the road to Damascus. The living and eternal Christ is accessible to us all the time!