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Reference Check

Monday, June 8, 2015

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope . . . though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy (1 Timothy 1:1, 13a, esv).

Do you have a résumé? Even if you haven’t updated yours in years, you know its function—try to make a good impression, convey competence, catch an employer’s eye, show your qualifications.

Imagine God’s résumé. What if He listed the millions of lives He’s transformed, every conceivable type of person from all walks of life over thousands of years? Now that résumé would inspire confidence. God has been in the business of changing people since time began and has millions of satisfied customers. He has complete product knowledge and offers an excellent return on your investment.

Letting God change us does require a certain level of trust. And submission. So for all of us who might feel hesitant about signing on to God’s transformation plan, perhaps we should do some reference checks.

Reference #1: Moses
Meet Moses, circa 1400 bc. Being brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses was pampered, cocky, and self-assured. When Moses first saw the Egyptians’ brutality against the Hebrew slaves, he took matters into his own hands, killed an Egyptian who was beating a slave, and buried the body in the sand (Exodus 2:12). When others discovered the murder, God sent Moses into the desert for forty years. Moses’ four-decade detour reminds us that we can’t accomplish God’s agenda in our own strength.

Then at age eighty, Moses saw a burning bush that wasn’t consumed by fire. God was reaching out to him. At this point, we might assume Moses would have it all together, but he’d transformed from cocky and self-assured to hesitant and self-doubting. God announced that He’d chosen Moses to lead His people, and in response, Moses stuttered something like, “I . . . I . . . I don’t talk so good.”

“God is passionate about the total transformation of people. Let Him change you.”

God replied, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:12). Moses argued, “Please send someone else” (4:13).

But God insisted, as He always does, and He transformed Moses into one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. Moses led two million people from Egypt into the Promised Land.

How was that possible? God changed him.

Reference #2: The Woman at the Well
Flip the calendar of human history forward to ad 30, and we see almighty God again, still busy changing people. In John 4:7–42, we meet the Samaritan woman at the well, an ancient version of “the woman at the bar.” She had a past—five husbands, living with a sixth man, and how many lovers in between? She might be described as immoral, loose, easy, or cheap, but there’s not a hint of disdain in Jesus’ interaction with her. Her conversation with the gracious, forgiving Son of God transformed her so powerfully that many who observed the change in her chose to believe in Christ too (see John 4:39).

Her life has a clear message: No sin is too great, no person too far gone, to be disqualified from God’s grace.

Reference #3: Saul/Paul
The Apostle Paul started life with the name Saul. (Sometimes God changes the names of people He’s changing to remind them, “You’re not the person you used to be.” Just ask Abraham, Sarah, or Israel, to name a few.) Saul was a religious zealot—very educated, powerful, and ruthless. And he hated Jesus. When the religious leaders stoned Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), cold-hearted Saul worked the murderers’ coat check (Acts 7:58). In a frenzy of hatred, Saul began persecuting every Christian he could find. He beat, imprisoned, and murdered them. He was “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (1 Timothy 1:13).

Those who don’t know the twist in this story would assume this guy was too far gone. “But [he] received mercy” (1 Timothy 1:13). One day, on the road to Damascus, Saul met Jesus. So dramatic was his conversion that he transformed from Saul, ruthless Christian-murderer, into Paul, “an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:1) and the all-time greatest preacher of the Church.

Whether you feel old and weak, defined by an ugly past, or simply too far gone—God hasn’t changed since the days of Moses, the woman at the well, or Saul. His greatest passion is the total transformation of people. He wants to do that for you, too.

Journal

  • What do you find inspirational in these stories of personal transformation?
  • In what ways would you like to see God transform you?

Pray
Lord God, Your résumé proves that You’re in the business of transformation. Thank You for how You changed Moses, the woman at the well, and Paul, and thank You for how You’re changing me. I trust You, God. You’re good at what You do, and You want what’s best for me. Help me to relinquish control and get out of Your way, that I too might receive Your transforming mercy. In the name of Jesus, my Lord, amen.


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