They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me. (Galatians 1:23-24)
I read this passage today, from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He’s referring to Christians in Judea, not knowing who he was, other than what stories they’d heard. They had heard that he who was persecuting the church was now a champion for Christ. And they praised God!
This reminded me of a gathering I was at a few years ago. It was a small church in St. Michael. The pastor directed our attention to a single lit candle by the altar. He told us that the candle is lit every time someone reports another lost soul is led to salvation through Christ. I have to tell you, I got major goosebumps hearing this – someone who was destined for eternity in hell was now redeemed by believing in their heart and confessing with their lips “Jesus is Lord”!
As the pastor talked of this, and told the story of the person who committed their lives to Christ, we all applauded. And we praise God for them. What a joyous occassion!
And if you think about it – what could be more joyous?? I’m reminded of some of the parables Jesus tells of finding the lost….
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Yet for some reason this free gift – a gift we have the option of recieving or declining mind you – is looked upon by the world as something “exclusive”. Something not necessarily everyone gets, or something only saved for those special few “elite” people, or the “do-gooders”. Well – there is no “elite” among us. None of us are do-gooders. Only God is good, and we’re only good because his Son took our sin and gave us His righteousness in return.
This free gift of salvation is not exclusive – it’s INCLUSIVE. There is not one person worthy of it – yet there is not one person denied it.
But they have to want it. I’ll never, ever “convince” someone to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If I’m ever present when someone does, it’s a PRIVELEGE. But I’m not responsible for it – only the Holy Spirit. So no amount of “convincing” or “selling” on my part will get the job done. They have to want it – and that does come from God alone.
But oh, when they want it! Oh, when the lights come on! Oh – when we finally open the door, and he comes in! Joy!
I will always praise God when I hear the report…..