Everyone loves a good mystery. Well, maybe not everyone, but most people anyway. Here is one for you. And it is unlike any other mystery in the history of the world.
The apostle Paul was sort of like a detective. He had been investigating a new religion on the scene. Well, maybe not investigating it as much as just persecuting it. And at that point, his name was still "Saul" of Tarsus.
The first time a Christian was martyred, "Saul was there, giving approval to his death." (Acts 8:1) Saul not only loved seeing Stephen put to death, but he "began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." (Acts 8:3) Saul was a radical and an extremist. He hated Christians and their message.
But then something incredible happened. Saul was converted on the road to Damascus. "Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom who are persecuting, he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'" (Acts 9:4-6)
You won't find a more dramatic conversion experience than that of Saul. Many Christians, on the other hand, come to faith in a relatively quiet manner. There is no fanfare. No strong emotion. No light flashing from heaven. Just wisdom, knowledge, faith and insight into the mystery of Christ.
Ah, the mystery of Christ. That is exactly what God revealed to Saul, who went on to become the apostle Paul. This is what Paul said about this message which he was given: "I want you to know, brothers, that the Gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11,12)
Not only that, but Paul referred to this message as a "mystery." He wrote to the believers in Ephesus, "In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 3:4,5)
And to the Christians at Colosse Paul wrote, "I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:25-27)
Why all the suspense? Why all the intrigue? And why was it such a mystery? Those are questions only God can answer. But one thing is sure. God has chosen to reveal this mystery not only to Jews like Saul of Tarsus, but also to many Gentiles as well. Who knows? You may be next. Or are you as strongly opposed to the Gospel message as Saul was before his conversion? Even if that does describe your current spiritual state, there is still hope for you. If Saul can be converted, anyone can be.
To understand the Gospel message involves receiving a spiritual revelation. It involves spiritual discernment. An "aha moment" if you will. The good news of salvation through Jesus is a message so simple a child can understand it, and yet so deep the most brilliant minds have missed it. It seems to pass right over the radar of our human understanding. Remember - it is a spiritual message comprised of concepts, words and historical events. It is not a natural message. The Gospel is a supernatural revelation of truth, and only those who receive it humbly will find themselves beginning to understand it and believe it.
Saul had to be humbled. That is what his Damascus road experience was about in part. Humility and revelation. And then faith and a response. It took a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Only He can reveal the mystery of Christ to man. Only He can make it clear. And only He can work the "miraculous conception" of Christ within your spirit. There must be a conception before there can be a birth. There must be God's creative power, and the presence of this new Person within you. All of that gets accomplished as the Gospel message is shared, heard and then accepted by faith.
Who can fully understand the miracle of physical conception? Likewise, the miracle of spiritual conception is even greater. Just think. The soul, which is immortal, goes from a position of spiritual death to one of spiritual life. Your spirit comes alive. Jesus comes within. And you begin to realize that something is very different in your life. It is a mystery how it all comes together, but that is exactly what happens to people all over the world. And who knows? You just might be next.
Are you open to having your own "Damascus road" meeting with the Lord? It will probably not be as dramatic as Saul's experience, but you will need to have your own encounter with the risen Christ in order for you to be born again. There is no other way for this miracle to happen. It is all about Jesus. His life, death and resurrection. His power and forgiveness. His love and grace. He died so that you may live forever. So why not accept that fact today? If you postpone your acceptance, you may never again get this close to being spiritually reborn.
"I think I will wait until I am closer to death." Oh really? And what makes you think you will be even slightly interested in Christ on your deathbed? What makes you think your life will not be snuffed out instantly with no opportunity to go back for a do-over? It is nothing more than self-deception to think that "there will always be time to come to Christ later." Most people who buy into that theory never end up on the narrow road to heaven, ever.
So yes, there is much urgency when it comes to the Gospel message. Think of it this way. Your soul is on the edge of a cliff. And a few feet to your right is a sturdy bridge. The bridge leads to paradise. If you are an unbeliever, you are standing on the edge but not on the bridge. What if your life ends today? It could you know. And you would be wise to seriously consider that possibility. There is no reason for you to fall over the edge of the cliff, especially after all that Christ has done to build this bridge by His death and resurrection.
If the other religions of the world placed their followers on the bridge, God would never have sent His only Son to suffer and die just to "build one more bridge." God sent Him because man had no bridge to heaven, and no way to save himself. God did for us what we could never do for ourselves in a million lifetimes. "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18)
What happens to the person who repents of his sin and believes this good news? "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12) That is the mystery of the new birth. And that is the mystery of Christ.
Everyone loves a good mystery. Well, maybe not everyone.