by Pat Cooper
April 02, 2019
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.
— Ephesians 2:4–5
Before his up-front and personal encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9), the apostle Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus, was a virtuous servant of God. Or so he thought.
Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless
— Philippians 3:5–6
Saul was a man on a mission, a devout adherent to the Torat Moshe (Law of Moses), known for getting the job done and doing whatever it takes. Having come up a student under the tutelage of Gamaliel, perhaps the most renown teacher of Jewish law in all Israel, Paul quickly rose through the ranks to become a member of the Sanhedrin, taking a seat of prominence on Israel’s high court.
Having warrants from the high priest in hand that gave him authority to extradite Judean fugitives, he headed northeast towards the Syrian city of Damascus. Drawing near, he came upon an unexpected detour of divine origin that would reroute his life in a most dramatic way. Once a feared persecutor of the Church, Saul would become her champion, preaching the gospel and pleading her case to Jews and Gentiles throughout the known world. Although he was totally unaware of the new direction his life would take that day, there are no surprises to God. In Galatians, Paul writes:
… he who had set me apart [from my mother’s womb] before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…
— Galatians 1:15–16
Might a change be in your future? A new name perhaps? Like Paul, a new and purposed life? You may not think so at the moment. You may see yourself as unfit and certainly unusable, hopeless, useless, stuck in the misery of poor choices, bad decisions, mistakes you can never correct, and wrong turns you cannot make right. I understand. I felt that way once. I had come to a place where I thought God would just have to suck it up and take a loss on his investment in me. But he knew things I didn’t. In plain sight to him was a life I could not see. A purposeful and well-planned detour was in my future, just like the one I feel he has for you.
Like Paul, you probably won’t need a new name, you only need to identify with the right name. The name he gave the day you believed: redeemed. Go ahead, try it on. I am certain it will be the perfect fit.
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