Tag Archives: conversion

Through the Bible, September 5

Reading: Acts 9-10

Summary: Saul of Tarsus rises to prominence among the Jews as a persecutor of Christians.  God intervenes in this zealous Pharisee’s life and brings about a dramatic conversion.  That event, along with the resurrection itself, serves as the greatest evidence for the validity of Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son.  That this event is recounted three times in Acts (chapters 9, 22, 26) bears witness to its vast importance.

Also of monumental import is the gospel being taken to the Gentiles.  This major shift also required God’s intervention to not only direct Cornelius’ actions, but also change Peter’s own attitudes and feelings.

Devotional Thought:

Two Conversions Considered

All conversions are not the same, but then again they are.  Is the stereotypical conversion one of a person who previously lived in rebellious defiance of God changing and now serving God in all humility?  That’s true of some conversions, but not all.  They are not all about a person changing from being bad to being good.

Think about Saul of Tarsus.  Here was a man zealously devoted to serving God in the way he thought he should.  How sadly and tragically mistaken he was.  His conversion included a radically changed understanding of God’s will and God’s people.  His zeal and fervor needed redirecting.

Think about Cornelius. This man is quite admirable even before his conversion.  He’s a devout, benevolent, God-fearing man.  Still, conversion was needed.

Neither of these men needed convinced to believe in God, to quit unrighteous living, or seek religion. Their greatest need was a changed relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  That change was affected by their immersion into Christ (Acts 9:18; 10:48).

Not all men need radical transformation in their lives and conduct, but all do need a critical change in their standing with God.

My Delight is the Lord, November 18

 What An Outcome

November 18, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 9:1-31

Saul of Tarsus breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (v. 1). He gained quite a reputation as he ravaged the church, entered house after house and dragged off men and women to prison (see 8:3). He was “evil” for the saints (v. 13). Do you suppose any prayers were offered by these Christians about the violence they faced and the fear they felt? As Luke wraps up this section of Acts, he says that the church had peace, was being built up, and multiplied (v. 31). Who could have dreamed of such an outcome? Who would have thought that God’s solution to their troubles was the conversion of their prime antagonist? The fact is, we can’t see the answer to our problems and God has shown Himself quite capable of utterly fantastic solutions. So, trusting Him is a better response than our ignorant fretting. Right?

Questions to Ponder:

  • Whom did Jesus use to tell Saul what to do? (v. 10)
  • What did Saul do for three days waiting for Ananias? (v. 11)
  • What was the focus of Saul’s preaching? (vv. 20, 22)
  • How long was it from Paul’s leaving Jerusalem till his return? (v. 26)

The Joy of God’s Presence, December 1

December 1, Tuesday: Bible Story (1)

Scripture Reading—Acts 15:1-35

The recorded meeting in Acts 15 is important, but not for the reason many people have supposed. It’s not that this sets a precedent for so-called church councils and conferences for deciding orthodox doctrine. Here’s what happened. A serious dispute had arisen. An assembly of the apostles and elders from the Jerusalem church, along with two Holy-Spirit-selected-and-sent missionaries (see Acts 13:1-3) gathered to ascertain clearly the Lord’s will on this question. What they concluded, they said, seemed good “to the Holy Spirit and to us” (v. 28). How did they reach that conclusion? Peter related his experience with Cornelius and his household. Barnabas and Paul related how God had worked through them in their recently completed missionary tour. James related direct statements of Scripture. This was not opinion or personal judgment. Discerning the Lord’s will is serious, serious business.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What were some men teaching? (v. 1)
  • Was this issue easily decided? (v. 7)
  • Who was selected to be sent along with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch? (v. 25)
  • How was the letter received by the church in Antioch? (v. 31)

The Joy of God’s Presence, November 17

November 17, Tuesday: Bible Story (1)

Scripture Reading—Acts 10:1-11:18

Cornelius was a good man; actually, better than most–and God knew it. We don’t need anecdotal validation, an angel himself told this Gentile soldier that both his prayers and his benevolent gifts “have ascended as a memorial before God” (v. 4). That is nothing short of astounding. Heaven had taken notice of this devout, God-fearing man (v. 2). The point of the angelic visit was not to say, “Great job. You’re good to go.” It was to point Cornelius in the direction of what was yet lacking spiritually. Like anyone else, he could not be saved “by works done…in righteousness” (Titus 3:5). Human goodness is insufficient for right standing with God. Let that sink in. Right standing comes only on the terms God has established through Jesus. Cornelius needed Jesus. As pious and giving as he was, he was nothing apart from Christ. Neither are we.

Questions to Ponder:

  •  Did Peter initially understand the vision he saw? (10:17)
  • What did Cornelius anticipate to hear from Peter? (10:33)
  • Whom does Peter say is acceptable to God? (10:35)
  • For what was Peter criticized? (11:3)

The Joy of God’s Presence, November 10

November 10, Tuesday: Bible Story (1)

Scripture Reading—Acts 9:1-31

This is a well-known (and with very good reason) Bible event. Much has been and will continue to be said and written about Saul’s conversion. The fact that it is recounted three separate times in Scripture (here, 22:3-16; and 26:9-18) shows us that God intends for us to pay close attention and learn from it. Here’s a bit of a side-line thought, that is, this certainly isn’t the primary message; but notice the different ways that followers of Jesus–the object so Saul’s intended persecution–are referred to–“disciples of the Lord” (v. 1), “the Way” (v. 2), “disciple” (v. 10), “your saints” (v. 13), “all who call on your name” (v. 14), “disciples” (v. 19), “those who called upon his [Jesus’] name” (v. 21). These words, phrases, and titles are used synonymously, that is, all referring to the same people. That should be helpful, then, in matching the Bible’s vocabulary and usage with our own.

Questions to Ponder:

  • From whom did Saul seek authority for his intended mission? (vv. 1-2)
  • Whom was Saul persecuting? (v. 5)
  • How is Saul described to Ananias? (v. 15)
  • What did Saul do “immediately” in Damascus? (vv. 19-20)

The Trouble With Changing Your Mind

Devotional Text: Acts 11:18

When is the last time you embraced as being true, something you previously had denied and even vehemently opposed?  Been a while?  It’s just not an easy thing to allow previously held truths to be overturned and set aside.  Most of us are just stubborn and prideful enough that clear evidence can be easily overpowered by our long-held prejudices.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem from converting the household of Cornelius, news of the event beat him home.  And, he was predictably challenged by his Jewish brethren about what he had done.  That should be no surprise.  Remember that Peter’s own change of heart and attitude had required divine intervention (see Acts 10:9-16).

Peter laid it all out for them; from his vision, to the visitors from Caesarea, to the Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius and his household (Acts 11:4-17).  Luke records, “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18).

I’d like to think I would have been like these Jerusalem Christians and believed and accepted this new truth and reality (it was brand new to them).  Obviously, not all the Jewish brethren were (see Acts 15).  This issue became a major thorn in Paul’s side in regard to his evangelistic work as is evidenced by the amount of ink he devoted to it in his letters.

But notice this progression.  These people expressed their concerns and misgivings to Peter when he arrived in Jerusalem.  They allowed Peter ample opportunity to explain himself.  Being confronted with this truth, they accepted the reality.  They then “fell silent” and glorified God.

That’s how it’s supposed to work; often it does not.

How willing am I, when a long held belief or understanding is challenged, to set aside my prejudices and assumptions and to seriously consider it as honestly and objectively as possible?  And if the evidence demands it, to turn loose of the old and embrace the new?

–David Deffenbaugh

For today’s Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

Two Conversions Considered

Devotional Text: Acts 9:18; 10:48

All conversions are not the same, but then again they are.  Is the stereotypical conversion one of a person who previously lived in rebellious defiance of God changing and now serving God in all humility?  That’s true of some conversions, but not all.  They are not all about a person changing from being bad to being good.

Think about Saul of Tarsus.  Here was a man zealously devoted to serving God in the way he thought he should.  How sadly and tragically mistaken he was.  His conversion included a radically changed understanding of God’s will and God’s people.  His zeal and fervor needed redirecting.

Think about Cornelius. This man is quite admirable even before his conversion.  He’s a devout, benevolent, God-fearing man.  Still conversion was needed.

Neither of these men needed convinced to believe in God, to quit unrighteous living, or seek religion. Their greatest need was a changed relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  That change was affected by their immersion into Christ (Acts 9:18; 10:48).

Not all men need radical transformation in their lives and conduct, but all do need a critical change in their standing with God.

–David Deffenbaugh

For today’s Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

September 5 Bible Reading: Acts 9-10

Saul of Tarsus rises to prominence among the Jews as a persecutor of Christians.  God intervenes in this zealous Pharisee’s life and brings about a dramatic conversion.  That event, along with the resurrection itself, serve as the greatest evidence for the validity of Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son.  That this event is recounted three times in Acts (chapters 9, 22, 26) bears witness to its vast importance.

Also of monumental import is the gospel being taken to the Gentiles.  This major shift also required God’s intervention to not only direct Cornelius’ actions, but also change Peter’s own attitudes and feelings.

For today’s daily devotional CLICK HERE

For September week 1 Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

For September Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

Two Conversions Conidered

Devotional Text: Acts 9:18; 10:48

All conversions are not the same, but then again they are.  Is the stereotypical conversion one of a person who previously lived in rebellious defiance of God changing and now serving God in all humility?  That’s true of some conversions, but not all.  They are not all about a person changing from being bad to being good.

Think about Saul of Tarsus.  Here was a man zealously devoted to serving God in the way he thought he should.  How sadly and tragically mistaken he was.  His conversion included a radically changed understanding of God’s will and God’s people.  His zeal and fervor needed redirecting.

Think about Cornelius. This man is quite admirable even before his conversion.  He’s a devout, benevolent, God-fearing man.  Still conversion was needed.

Neither of these men needed convinced to believe in God, to quit unrighteous living, or seek religion. Their greatest need was a changed relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  That change was affected by their immersion into Christ (Acts 9:18; 10:48).

Not all men need radical transformation in their lives and conduct, but all do need a critical change in their standing with God.

–David Deffenbaugh

For today’s Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

A Valuable Lesson

Devotional Text: Acts 9:4

Have you ever had a life-changing day?  A day that, based on its events, would leave your life forever different?  Maybe the day you met your spouse or got married or your first child was born.  Maybe the day you made a decision or had an accident or someone died or were introduced to Jesus or whatever.

Let’s go with that last one for a moment.  That was the day Saul of Tarsus had.  The day he met Jesus radically and permanently changed him and everything about his life.  Given who he was, what he had become, and what he was doing—especially to the degree and intensity—his conversion is rightly seen as a primary evidence, second only to Jesus’ resurrection, for the validity of Christianity.

With all of that in mind, consider two of the great lessons learned that day by Saul.  First, the fervor and passion with which we believe we serve God is no verification of God’s acceptance of what we’re doing.  Unquestionably Saul exceeded all others in his zeal to fight these followers of Jesus whom he believed opposed God (see Gal. 1:13; Acts 9:21; 26:10-11; 1 Tim. 1:13).  Also unquestionable is that Saul was absolutely wrong about this.

Second, Saul learned that how one treats God’s people, the church, is how they treat Him.  The question that stopped Saul in his tracks on the Damascus road was, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).  What Saul was doing to Christians he was doing to Jesus.  We would do well to remember this in our dealings with brethren.

What we learn from our encounters with Jesus should, as with Paul, change us forever.

–David Deffenbaugh

For today’s Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE