“‘What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot. I started preaching this life-change — this radical turn to God and everything it meant to everyday life — right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world 

“‘It’s because of this “whole world” dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. They want to keep God for themselves. But God has stood by me, just as He promised, and I’m standing here saying what I’ve been saying to anyone, whether king or child, who will listen. And everything I’m saying is completely in line with what the prophets and Moses said would happen. One, the Messiah must die; two, raised from the dead, He would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and god-fearing.'” Acts 26:19-23 (The Message).

The same Jesus, who created the universe and sustains it by His powerful word, stood before Paul and awaited his decision. In that life-changing encounter, Paul was offered a package – to be opened one day at a time, containing good and bad. The choice was his. Would he accept it or walk away and never know what was inside or have the privilege of being a partner with the King of kings?

‘I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that.’ Paul decided to accept the package in toto. It was his response to the “heavenly vision” that set him up for life he lived — danger and death staring him in the face every moment of every day. It’s no wonder he wrote, “I die daily.” Death was his daily companion on his road of obedience to his Master.

But it did not seem to trouble him unduly. His attitude was, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Death to Paul meant nothing worse than relocation into the presence of his Lord. As far as he was concerned, he was already a dead man, and no-one can kill a dead man. When did he die? In that moment when he surrendered his life to the glorious risen Jesus he saw on the Damascus road.

It was his job to follow the vision wherever it led. Unfortunately for him, his obedience to the vision took him into “forbidden territory” — the Gentiles. These were people abhorrent to the Jews for a very strange reason. During their early history, instead of living as God had instructed them and worshipping Him only, so that their way of life would put their God on display, they persisted in following the disgusting idols of the surrounding nations. This eventually led to their exile in a foreign land.

This terrible experience turned them into isolationists who thought they were better than everyone else. They treated the Gentiles as though they were less than human, refusing to have anything to do with them. For Paul to take God’s message to the Gentiles was unthinkable. How could he! He must die for that!

Yet they had forgotten that their very own Scriptures had predicted that Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles and that all the nations would come to the Lord through Him. Paul’s package included the hardship he had to endure at the hands of his own people whose prejudice had blinded them to the true nature of their God and to their calling to be a light to the Gentiles.

It was for that very reason that he stood before Agrippa that day, not to make excuses for a profligate life or criminal activities, but to bear testimony to his obedience to a vision and a call he could not ignore. How unbearable it would have been had he not died to himself that day when he answered the call!

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Luella Campbell

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