In his Daily Bible Study series, William Barclay tells a compelling story about an evangelist named Brownlow North. Apparently, in his younger days, he had lived a wild life.
“Once, just before he was to enter the pulpit in a church in Aberdeen, he received a letter. This letter informed him that its writer had evidence of some disgraceful thing which Brownlow North had done before he became a Christian, and it went on to say that the writer proposed to interrupt the service and to tell the whole congregation of that sin if he preached.”
“Brownlow North took the letter into the pulpit; he read it to the congregation; he told of the thing that once he had done; and then he told them that Christ had changed him and that Christ could do the same for them. He used the very evidence of his shame to turn it to the glory of Christ.”
Christ can change men and women from a wicked life to a righteous life. From an immoral to a godly life. From a life of ruin to a life of righteousness.
Acts 26 records such a conversion story by the apostle Paul.
Paul’s Past Life
Known previously as Saul of Tarsus, he was a persecutor of Christians. He consented to the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death. He harassed Christians. Threatened them. Put them in prison. And “tried to force them to blaspheme.” He said, “I was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
However, the life of Saul was about to make a dramatic turn.
His Conversion Story
For the third time in Acts we read about Saul’s conversion. On the road to Damascus, as he was on the way to persecute more Christians, he had an encounter with Christ. It can be summed up in these three statements.
“I saw a light.” Saul was an educated man. Enlightened. Respected. And zealous in the Jewish religion. But the supernatural light from heaven that revealed the glory of God, blinded Saul for 3 days, got his attention. In the darkness of his blinded eyes, his spiritual eyes were opened.
“I heard a voice.” Paul’s traveling companions witnessed the light, but not the Lord. They heard a sound, but couldn’t understand the words (Ax 22:9). But Saul did. The Lord told him that his fight against Him was futile. And that the Lord wanted to use him to minister to the Gentiles. Saul suddenly learned that Jesus was alive. And that the One he had been persecuting was the Messiah.
“I was not disobedient.” Saul asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Ax 22:10). He was told to go into the city and there he would learn what the Lord required. God sent the preacher Ananias to proclaim the gospel to Saul, who commanded him: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Ax 22:16)
His Present Life
Ironically instead of persecuting Christians in Damascus, he first preached Christ there. Then proclaimed the gospel in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and then to Gentiles on his missionary journeys.
Not only was Saul’s name changed to Paul, but his life changed from an obsessed destroyer of Christianity to an ardent disciple. His faith led him to suffer persecution, endure hardship and continue to preach Jesus.
His Story Can Be Your Story
Regardless of the kind of life you’ve lived, you can change. Repent. Come to Christ. And be cleansed of sins. If God could forgive Saul of his sins, he can forgive you and me. And He can use us to accomplish His purpose.
No, you won’t see a bright light or hear a voice speak from heaven since the age of the miraculous gifts has ceased. But you can read about these conversion accounts, and thus hear what God wants you to do. Your spiritual eyes can be opened to His Truth. And you can obey. And continue to be faithful.
If you’re already a Christian, you too have a story. What was your past life like? What happened? How did you change? And where are you now spiritually?
Share your story. It may make a dramatic difference and lead a lost soul out of darkness and into the Light.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman