Acts 7:57-60 NIV
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
With these verses, we find ourselves at the beginning of the persecution of believers. Who is standing right there, if not participating, then at best giving his silent approval to the stoning of Stephen? At whose feet do the witnesses lay their clothing? Saul. The young man who would one day become the Apostle Paul. the young man who would write nearly half of what we now know as the New Testament. the young man who would one day consider dying for Jesus as a great privilege. Amazing, isn't it? God took one of the great leaders of the persecution of the church and made him into one of the greatest leaders of the church.
So often we hear about people who learn about and accept Jesus while in prison. or people who have been drug addicts and alcoholics who come to Christ. Many of these people become great witnesses for the Lord. But what is the reaction of old friends and neighbors to these people? How are they viewed by others when they return to their home towns, ready and eager to spread the news of what Jesus has done for them? With suspicion. with condemnation. and with disbelief.
The same happens elsewhere on a smaller scale. Say, for instance, you know someone who has always been a pretty rotten person. someone you could never trust. someone who climbed the ladder of success by stepping on other people's heads. someone who has betrayed your trust over and over again. Then, one day, you run into that person, and he starts telling you about the new life he's found in Jesus. How do you feel about him? Do you trust him? Do you believe he's changed? If you're normal, probably not.
And then there is you. You know yourself better than anyone else. You know your faults and your problems. You know all your scars and are well acquainted with the old "tapes" that cause you to foul up your life over and over again. There really isn't any way you can serve God, is there? You've done too many things wrong. You have too much working against you. so why even bother?
Why bother? Because God can change anyone. and He does change anyone who calls on Him. Allow Him to show you how He has changed others. Allow Him to change you. Allow Him to make you - each and every day - into someone who reflects His love. Allow Him to make you into the servant He plans for you to be.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV
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