Encounter with the Living Christ

Significant moments, awesome encounters, overwhelming meetings, incredible occasion – these are never forgotten! I am sure that each one of us has some significant event in our lives that is forever burned into our memory, that forever changes us, that constantly affects our lives.
In the life of the follower of Jesus, there is that first encounter with the living Christ – that moment that marks us as different, transformed, rehabilitated, changed when we make the decision to accept Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior. Whenever it was – that moment of awareness that life without Jesus Christ in the center of it – was a life of hopelessness; that moment was an encounter with the revealed and living Christ that you will never forget. From that moment in time – your life has been forever different!
We are, I believe, like Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-18) who could not get Jesus out of his mind. I am sure that Saul was present when the lame man was healed through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. I am sure he heard the message of Peter and John as they gave no apology for living the ‘Christ-life.’ I am sure that Saul had seen Jesus revealed as the living Christ by the ‘living object lesson of God’s love’ in the life of Stephen, and when the religious authorities falsely accused and tried Stephen for blasphemy – and I believe Saul would have been part of that crowd – he heard the testimony of God’s plan of redemption right from Stephen’s own lips. And when Stephen was convicted and taken outside the city to be executed by stoning, these religious leaders placed their garments at Saul’s feet, giving Saul a ‘front-row seat’ to the Spirit and presence of the living Christ in the life of this first Christian martyr.
But in all of his zeal to rid the Jerusalem and the entire Jewish world of anything at all Christian, Saul “had left out of his calculations the sovereign grace of God” (Stott, 1990, p. 169) through Jesus Christ.
Theologian, Richard Longnecker has stated: “Once Saul had been encountered by Christ on the Damascus road, . . . he began to understand that despite his zeal and his sense of doing God’s will, his previous life and activities in Judaism lay under God’s rebuke . . . [Nor could he] escape the fact that the Jesus whose followers he had been persecuting was alive, exalted, and in some manner to be associated with God the Father, whom Israel worshipped. He, therefore, had to revise his whole estimate of the life, teaching, and death of the Nazarene . . . fulfilled prophecy and was really God’s provision for [the sin of all people] and that Jesus’ resurrection confirmed him as being the nation’s Messiah and [Lord of all.] (Longnecker, 1995, p. 167)
God is the Initiator. He is the One who comes down to where we are. He is the One who extends his open arms to embrace us and comfort us. He is the One who has done all the work. He is the One who has paid our penalty for sin. And all we have to do is take that one small, single step toward him and accept him for who he is and invite him into our hearts and lives to be our Lord and Savior.
Dr. John Stott explains so well: “The cause of Saul’s conversion was grace, the sovereign grace of God. But sovereign grace is gradual grace and gentle grace. Gradually, and without violence, Jesus [pierced] Saul’s mind and conscience with his [gentle prodding.] Then he revealed himself to him by the light and the voice, not in order to overwhelm him, but in such a way as to enable him to make a free response. Divine grace does not trample down human personality. Rather the reverse, for it enables human beings to be truly human. It is sin which imprisons; it is grace which liberates. The grace of God so frees us from the bondage of our pride, prejudice and self-centeredness, as to enable us to repent and believe. One can but magnify the grace of God that he should have had mercy on such a rapid bigot as Saul of Tarsus, and indeed on such proud, rebellious and wayward creatures as ourselves.” (Stott, 1990, p. 173)
Have you encountered the living Jesus? Is he, through his grace and love and mercy, beginning to get hold of your attention as he asks you, “Why are you rebelling against me?”
Is he gently knocking at the door of your heart and quietly waiting for you to open the door and invite him into your heart and life? Don’t let this encounter with the living Christ go unheeded. He loves you. He cares for you. He wants to be in your heart and life always.

Blessings, Pastor Leigh

Bibliography
Longnecker, R. N. (1995). The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Acts. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Stott, J. R. (1990). The Messge of Acts: The Spirit, the Church and the world. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

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