Good morning and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. Today we continue with Paul’s defence of his ministry. Remember yesterday he had received his Gospel directly by revelation from Jesus Christ. You will hear more of his defence at the end of this reflection. For now I want to focus on v23-24.
[The churches of Judea] only heard the report “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
At the beginning of March I took the team of STC trainees out to Romania. This was back at a time when we could travel and move freely. We went out to spend time with Networks, a charity working with the Roma. We had the privilege of spending a few hours with Lee Savile, Network’s founder and leader. One question he asked was “what is your gospel?” He was trying to get the team to think beyond the death of Jesus on the cross being about more than just sin management and individual salvation to the transformation of the whole world, it’s people and it’s systems and structures.
Networks don’t preach the ‘gospel’ instead they live it out by lifting Roma people out of poverty and oppression and seek to change attitudes and perceptions of the surrounding culture and the self perception of Roma people themselves. Today, from an illiterate people, the Networks team have seen the first Roma child graduate high school and go on to further education.
Today, I do not want to open up a debate on evangelism vs social transformation, both are necessary to see God’s kingdom come. Rather I want to focus on the question that Lee asked the team, “What’s your Gospel?”
The report that others had given about Paul was this, “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
This is an indication of the gospel at work in Paul’s life. He underwent a complete turnaround: from persecutor to preacher; from enemy to friend and powerful ally; from self-righteous ‘somebody’ to humble servant.
I was saved from a life going nowhere, from drinking far too much, from a succession of failed relationships, from a heart that was battered and bruised, to life and love and purpose. I dread to think of who I would have become if Jesus hadn’t turned up in my life when he did.
What’s your Gospel? What’s your story? What is the testimony of God at work in your life? Where has he caused you to grow? Where have you learnt to trust? What are the moments in your life that you point to and say, “it could only be God!”
This may be the big moment when we came to faith or a story from today. Not everyone has a story of drink, drugs or persecuting the church – a before and after story of meeting Jesus.
You may have had the privilege of growing up in a Christian family, you might be fortunate to have known Jesus from an early age, but we all have God moments in our lives. We all have moments when God turns up: a blessing; a tough time when he revealed more of the mess in our lives and brought a bit more healing; or the church community rallying around to help in a time of need; or the word we received at just the right moment…
It is our stories that impact those around us. Our stories contain the gospel incarnate… Jesus’ sacrifice made real in our lives.
Theory, concept or theology rarely touch others’ hearts. It’s almost impossible to debate someone into the kingdom… but tell someone how God provided for you, tell of the strength that filled you as you prayed, tell of the physical healing you received as friends placed their hands on you and prayed. Tell the stories of your shattered relationships that have been transformed, the addictions that God led you out of or the peace you received as your mum lay dying in her hospital bed. Tell of the overwhelming generosity of your Christian community. Tell of the community that fed you when you had a new baby. Tell of the friends who helped you move house, who wept with you when your world fell apart…
So today let’s remember all that the lord has done for us. Let us remember who we were, who we might have been and let us give thanks. Let us be ready to tell everyone we meet of the goodness and grace of God in our lives.
Father, remind us today of ‘our gospel.’ Remind us how much you have already done in our lives and let our hearts overflow with gratitude. Father, even in lockdown we ask that you would give us all an opportunity to share our gospel with others. Help us father, Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 1:18-24
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.
Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me.