Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day Nineteen: Forward

The WORD of the Day:

"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." 
--Philippians 3:13-14

Let Me Give You a Lift:

Paul is one of the two most recognized apostles in the entire Bible, even among non-Christians. The only apostle who might be more famous is Peter, but then how does one compete with the person Catholics refer to as the first pope? Paul was a great man of God, who is responsible for helping to establish and grow some of the first churches. He is also responsible for authoring a significant portion of the New Testament.

But before that, Paul killed Christians. He persecuted the church, and at the time he even thought he was right to do it.  That is part of the reason why, following his conversion, Paul refers to himself as the 'chief among sinner.' 

If anyone could be defined by his past, it's Paul. He came to Christ a murderer filled with rage. In fact, he was on his way to Damascus to collect Christians and have them imprisoned when Paul had the encounter with Christ that would change his life.  When Paul finally realized the error of his ways, he was  distraught. How could he have been so wrong? The Bible says he refused to eat or drink for three days.  And let's be clear: he was a man who had a lot to be sorry for. Paul did awful things before he became a Christian.  Many others in his shoes would have given up, stuck in the guilt and despair. Many do.  

But not Paul. He wanted redemption. Always a godly man, he wanted the right kind of relationship with God through Christ. Paul's life is the picture of grace, which may be why he writes about it so eloquently.  God's influence on Paul's heart was profound, transforming an oppressive and bitter persecutor to a man who devoted his life to ministry and serviceMost of Paul's life as an apostle was spent being persecuted--imprisoned, beaten, people even tried to kill him. But God's grace made him bold in the Word. 

To accomplish the amazing things that Paul did, though, he had to always be looking forward.  He did not try to ignore his past--in fact, he used it in his ministry to illustrate just how much God will forgive.  But he put his past to rest; he accepted God's forgiveness and grace, and he became a new person. 

Paul's background actually made him the perfect person to teach people about the transforming power of God's grace.  Coming from anyone else, the words he spoken in II Corinthians 5 would carry far less meaning:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Put the past behind you, and never look back.

Give it a Listen:

The song for today is MercyMe's “Beautiful.”  I love this song. It is about how much we are loved, even when at our worst.  This is exactly the song to listen to when feeling discouraged, defeated, disappointed in yourself. "You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His."

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