An Encounter With Christ
The transformation of one’s life is the greatest miracle that can ever occur. When a person experiences true conversion and forms a real, heartfelt, and sincere relationship with Christ. There is no other greater miracle than this – a pure transformation of the heart and mind.
Case in point. Let’s take the life of Apostle Paul. As we know, Paul, once went by the name Saul, prior to his religious conversion. Under that name, he did many evil things. Ananias, a disciple of Christ, put it this way. “… I have heard from many about this man, how much harm (evil) he has done to your saints” (Acts 9:13).
Paul even described his former self this way. “I persecuted the church of GOD beyond measure and tried to destroy it. … Saints I shut up in prison by the authority of the chief priests, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them” (Galatians 1:13; Acts 26:9-10).
Paul, when he was known as Saul, was one the main leaders who were responsible for one of the greatest persecution the church has experienced. He led the persecution against the church by invading their sanctuaries, entering Christians’ private homes, throwing Christians into prison, and being a part of the death of countless Christians. (Compare to Acts 8:1, 3; 9:1-2; 22:4; 26:10). Paul, as Saul, was a great man to be feared, and rightfully so.
We are not going to go into much detail in this section about Paul’s life. But I thought it would be beneficial to cover a few pivotal points from his life.
Saul was a part of the Pharisee class. They were the largest and most influential religious group in the New Testament. They were antagonists (opponents) against Jesus and his disciples. They were known for their separatist behavior. [They separated themselves from all other groups (both social and religious). Especially from the common people because they saw them as religiously unclean.]
So, Saul was part of this group of men. As a result, he adopted many prejudiced views this class of men had. It was the Pharisees’ unhealthy belief systems that Saul held onto, that drove him to become one of the church’s greatest and formative persecutors.
Now, this was who Paul was prior to his conversion to Christianity. As Saul, he was a man full of prejudices, hatred, anger, ignorance, and undisciplined principles because, at that time, he was holding onto an erroneous belief system. But, Paul, whom the church has come to know and love today, is a very different person from the man Saul.
Now, many in the church love to talk about Paul’s conversion. But we don’t want to overlook it for what it is. It’s one of the greatest miracles that any Christain can experience in their life. In fact, I believe that Paul’s encounter with Christ that led to his conversion IS THE GREATEST sign, wonder, and miracle that any Christian can experience.
Let’s look at Paul’s conversion together. We see in the account stated at Acts chapter 9 that Paul was on his way to Damascus to find any and every Christian he could find to have them seized and locked up in prison. For it was his goal to stamp out any Christians who were following “The Way.” But on his way there, Paul had an encounter that forever changed him.
Now, I am not going to go into details about Paul’s conversion. You can read it for yourself at Acts chapter 9, verses 1 through 9. What I want to focus on are two things.
As we see in verses 4 through 6 of Acts chapter 9, there is this back and forth dialogue going on between Saul and Jesus. As this is going on, the men that were traveling with Saul were observing this “strange” behavior by him. For these men did not see Jesus nor could hear the things that Jesus was saying to Saul. So, you can only imagine what these men may have thought. Like, what in the world is going on here? Is Saul losing his mind? Why did all of this occur and what triggered Saul to behave this way? One minute, they are traveling on the road to Damascus. And then, out of nowhere, Saul flips on them. For no apparent reason, he was acting strange and crazy from their point of view.
You see, what these men were observing concerning Saul was weird. Some elite and insensitive leaders today would call Saul’s behavior “strange fire.” (I won’t go there today). To the men who were with Saul, his behavior appeared strange to them because they (1) did not understand what was happening to Saul. (2) And because they could not see nor hear who or what Saul was seeing and talking to. Therefore, they all probably at this point, labeled Paul as crazy. He has lost it – having a psychotic episode or some kind of demonic attack.
Kind of like what some Christians do towards their brothers and sisters in the faith when they cannot relate to or if they have not experienced the same or similar encounter with Christ as some have in the faith. Often time, some Christians try to rebuff an individual’s experience or encounter with Christ as some form of witchcraft, some “strange” event, a senseless emotional outburst, or some demonic experience. Some believers would prefer giving more credit to the devil and his power to influence GOD’s people. Then believe in the indefinite power and abilities of an all-knowing, all-powerful, supreme GOD, who can do all things and therefore anything – even today. Like these men who were traveling with Saul, many in the church today, cannot and will not believe nor accept that people are having unique encounters with Christ that are forever changing their lives.
ananiS's response to paul’s conversion
This leads us to Paul's introduction to Ananias.
Ananias was a well-known and respected disciple of Christ. After Paul’s conversion, GOD approached Ananias and gave him these specific instructions.
Now, when Ananias first heard this, you can only imagine the initial confusion he must have felt. He probably even asked himself – am I hearing right? He might have even initially rebuked the voice of the LORD, knowing the kind of man Saul was. Ananias probably thought this voice cannot be the LORD. It has to be something of a demonic nature, setting me up for a trap.
But the vision the LORD gave Ananias concerning Paul’s conversion made it clear to him that this was indeed the LORD. Therefore, despite his reservation and the fear he might have felt, Ananias went to
Saul and laid his hands on him so that he may recover his sight and be filled with Holy Spirit.
Ananias' responses to Paul clearly show us that he accepted Paul’s conversion as legitimate. He did not question, nor doubt what the LORD had done for Saul in converting him into a new man. (Compare to 2 Corinthians 5:17). In fact, when Ananias greeted Paul for the first time, he said to him, “… Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18).
First, Ananias acknowledged and accepted Paul’s conversion, and then greeted Saul as his brother. Once Ananias heard from the LORD concerning Saul. He did not need any man of the faith to vet whether Paul’s conversion was legit. He did not need man’s approval concerning Paul. A word from the LORD was all he need to receive Paul as his brother.
Secondly, Ananias confirmed Paul’s conversion by restating the encounter Saul had with Christ along the road. Although Ananias was not there, the LORD revealed to Ananias how Paul’s conversion happened. So, when Ananias met Saul, he said to him.
Ananias did not dismiss nor reject Paul’s encounter just because it was not his personal experience with Christ. Ananias respected the fact that this was how Christ decided to approach Saul so that he could experience a real heart transformation to Paul. And I am sure, Ananias’ original encounter with Christ was different from Paul's. We have to be mindful, just like Ananias was being mindful that without Saul’s Damascus encounter with Christ on the road, Saul probably would never have experienced a real heart transformation to Paul. Therefore, he certainly would not have the level of impact or influence that he has had on the church today.
my personal encounter
I won’t go into great details about my own personal encounters with Christ because I have spoken about it many times over the years on my website blog (deaidrenewby.com), my YouTube vlog (deaidre1), as well as through other social media posts (@newforddesigns).
But I will say this. Like Paul, my two encounters with Christ that led to my conversion are unique to me. Like Paul, my encounters with Christ were personal, life-like, and convincing – that they convinced me to make a 180 turn from the way I was living. Like Paul, I was on the sure path to hell. I was choosing a one-way ticket to hell because of my own ignorance. Even Paul admitted this about himself when he was Saul. He said, “although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent (violent, arrogant) man, but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). Saul was severely persecuting his Jewish brothers and sisters out of his own ignorance.
What about us today? Like Saul, some of us are persecuting our brothers and sisters in the faith because we cannot accept or relate to their personal encounters with Christ. We are dismissing the faith and experiences of some of our brothers and sisters because we personally don’t understand or agree with how GOD speaks or moves in and through them because it is not our own personal experience with GOD.
Like mine, Paul’s encounter with Christ had to be unique to him so that GOD could get his attention. His encounter could not have been done any other way. Otherwise, it would have had no effect on Saul. And he would not have become Paul – an apostle of Christ.
This was no different for me. My encounters with Christ had to be unique for me in order for Christ to get my attention. If it was done in any other way, Dede would have never become the Deaidre I am today. I am certainly not the same person I once was.
Paul certainly is not the same man he once was. And I strongly believe it is safe to say, it is because of his personal encounter he had with Christ on the way to Damascus.
Individual encounters with Christ need to be different for each individual so that we all can experience a true conversion of our faith. Otherwise, it would be of no effect.
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Discussing Biblical Talking Points with Deaidre.