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Day Two:  Transformed by the Will of God

Day Two: Transformed by the Will of God

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Zero to Hero on a Dusty Road

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
Ephesians 1:1a

As we embark on this adventure in prayer and the study of the book of Ephesians, let’s begin by looking at the person God chose to write this letter and evangelize the known world at that time.  His name is Paul, formerly Saul— whom the Lord designated as an apostle of His Son, Jesus Christ.

There is much to learn about this simple change of names and, more importantly, the change of identity that accompanies the new name.  And the transformation we see in Paul is the same transformation that occurred in you— if you know Christ and have experienced true regeneration and salvation.  But more on that later.

In the opening few words of his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Eph. 1:1a).  Note that this transformation was by the will of God and not based on the strength of Paul’s personality, his own merit or hard work, nor his ambition, education, family background, or career choice.  It was by God and God alone— because only God has the power to transform lives and use individuals for His divine purposes like He did Paul and countless others throughout church history.  Paul’s life is a living testament to this.  Once he was Saul, a violent persecutor of the early church and an enemy of Christ.  Then, in a blinding light, he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  And now, everything changed (read it for yourself in Acts 9:1-19).  As Mary Magdalene from the series The Chosen said when she was trying to explain her transformation to Nicodemus:

“I was one way— and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was Him.”

This is what happened to Paul, and to each of us who Christ has changed.

From Saul to Paul or From Darkness to Light

Saul was a zealous Pharisee who dedicated his life to upholding Jewish law and tradition.  It was his passion, and therefore, he saw the early Christians as a threat to his beliefs and actively sought to silence them through persecution, imprisonment, and, ultimately, death.  However, God had other plans for Saul.  In a blinding moment of revelation and truth, all orchestrated by God and when Saul least expected it (which is often how the Lord works), Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and confronted him with the truth he had so vehemently rejected (Acts 9:1-9).  This encounter marked the beginning of Saul’s transformation into Paul, who became one of the most influential Christians and an example to all.  He became a missionary, evangelist, church planter, apologist, and the writer of most of the New Testament.

But what happened to Paul was not an isolated event.  God is still in the business of changing lives, even yours— if you would surrender your life to Him.  But once again, we’ll talk more about that later.

What Does it Mean For Us Today?

Paul’s story is a reminder that no one, including you and me, is beyond the reach of God and His wondrous grace.  Just as God changed a violent persecutor of the church into a committed proclaimer of the Gospel, He can also transform our lives, no matter how messed up we have made them, and use us for His glory.  All throughout history, we see examples of ordinary people, like you and me, who experienced the extraordinary, life-changing touch of God:

   Augustine of Hippo was once driven by worldly ambitions and desires (he was actually a pretty nasty dude), and became the most influential theologian during the early history of the church and penned such classics as “The City of God” and “Confessions.”

   There was John Bunyan, once a profane and blasphemous man, who became a preacher and the author of the Christian classic “The Pilgrim’s Progress” after he encountered Christ.

   Then consider John Newton, a former slave trader who encountered God’s grace and became a minister, abolitionist, and the author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”

   Mary Magdalene was a woman once possessed by seven demons (Mark 16:9), who became a devoted follower of Christ and the first witness to His resurrection after she encountered Jesus and He freed her from her bondage.

   And don’t forget Chuck Colson, a former political operative involved in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration, who found redemption in Christ while in prison and founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to transforming lives behind bars.

   One of my favorites, Corrie ten Boom, was a humble Dutch watchmaker who the Nazis imprisoned for helping Jews escape to freedom. After the war, and after experiencing the horrors of life in a concentration camp, she traveled the world sharing her story of forgiveness and God’s unending love, touching countless lives (including mine).

   And finally, there is you. That’s right, you (put your name here ______________ ).  You were once one way before Christ came into your life and now, by His grace and the redeeming power of the Spirit, you are someone new.

And your life is just as valuable to God as those we have listed above.  All you need to do is place your new life in His hands like those heroes who have gone before us have done.  The rest, as they say, is up to Him.

Our God is the God of Second and Third (and More) Chances

These stories, along with countless others, demonstrate that God’s transformative power knows no boundaries.  He can take our broken pasts, our failures, our weaknesses, and what we are most ashamed of, and shape them into something beautiful for His kingdom.  In fact, He can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).  All He is waiting on is for us to ask.  So do that today.

If you find yourself feeling unworthy or too far gone and beyond the reach of God’s love and grace, remember the story of Paul.  No matter your background or the mistakes you’ve made (or are still making), God sees you through the lens of His unconditional love.  He has a plan and purpose for your life, always has, and He desires to transform you from the inside out and conform you to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).

Remember the encouraging words from Paul:

Therefore, if anyone (put your name here) is in Christ, he (and here) is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new – 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This is His goal for you.  It always has been— and always will be.

Self-Examination and Prayer

As we reflect on God’s transformative power, let’s examine our own lives.  Think, are there areas where we need to surrender to God’s will and allow Him to work in us?  Are we open to the changes He wants to make in our hearts and minds?  Take a moment to pray and invite God to reveal His purpose for your life.  Ask Him to guide you and grant you the courage to follow His lead (and to let you know His perfect will for you), even when it means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what may seem frightening or impossible.  This is how faith grows (see Hebrews 11).

So Let’s Pray

Be sure to make your prayer personal, just between you and your Father.

Dear Father,
I come to You today, thanking You for transforming Saul into Paul and me into the image of Your Son, just like You promised.  I cannot thank You enough for Your grace, mercy, and unconditional love.  Thank You for Paul’s example, who reminds me that no one is beyond the reach of Your grace including, and especially, me.  I pray You will continue to work in my life, molding me into the person You have called me to be.

Give me the courage to surrender my life to Your will, trusting that Your plans for me are good and perfect.  Help me to embrace the changes You want to make in my heart and mind, even when it means stepping out of my comfort zone.  And Lord, when I am tempted to return to my old habits and mindset and way of life, remind me of who I am in You.

I pray for those who may feel unworthy or think they are too far gone from Your love to ever return to You.  Remind them of Your unconditional grace and the transformative power of Your presence in their lives.  And use me, Lord, as an instrument of Your love and truth.  May my life be a testament to the work You have done in me, and may I be a light to those who are searching for hope and purpose.

I ask all these things in the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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