Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples … As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
Acts 9:1, 3
Sometimes religion can get in the way of encountering Jesus. Saul was very religious. The problem, however, was that he understood that God was good, which meant that Saul wanted to be like God, which meant trying to be good.
But when you try to be good, you soon realize that you’re not. So you start pretending to be good. But this image takes a lot of work to maintain, and you know, down deep, that it’s phony. So you feel worse because in addition to being rotten, you’re also a liar. So you work at external behavior and start looking around for people even worse than you so you can feel better about yourself in comparison.
And that leads to being mean. So in addition to being rotten and a liar, you become a grade-A jerk. It’s a downward spiral. Trying to become good enough to gain God’s approval simply doesn’t work. And as in the case of Saul, this religious cycle can even turn someone into a murderer.
The problem, Jesus says, is on the inside, and only God can change a person there. This change is available, but only if we wake up and realize it. Saul’s breakthrough came, not by customs, religion, rules, and church, but through an authentic encounter with the living God, who transformed him into the amazing evangelist, missionary, and Bible writer we know as Paul.
He can change you too, from the inside out. ♦
Lord God, only you are good …