The world is full of injustice, racial prejudice, plagues, disasters, and destruction. Man has tried every conceivable method to make a difference in human life with no effect at all. Government reforms, changes to economic and cultural policies, various social programs didn’t do anything, evil men continue from bad to worse. Everyone admits that the solution to eradicating the evil is to change human behavior. Everyone believes that man has to be transformed, but they don’t admit as to who can make that change.
There is no outside force that can change the man. Because man does not have an outside problem, what he got is an internal issue. The root course is that by nature man possesses a ‘wicked heart’. The only person who can change the nature of the man is Jesus Christ Himself. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things pass away behold all things become new” (2 Cor 5:17). The result of a changed man is a changed world.
A man who changed the world
Scripture gives us a record of one such man who changed the world. He identified himself as the world’s worst sinner. He lived his life to hurt, injure, and get rid of people who opposed his view. He hated Christ and the people who loved Christ. He worked for the corrupt priests and the dirty politicians in Jerusalem. He was highly educated and quite scholarly in the Old Testament. Once he was confronted by a young dynamic visiting preacher by the name of Stephen. He couldn’t handle him, so he got rid of him. Then he began to rip and tear the church. He went even to the foreign cities and remote villages looking for Christ-followers, arresting them and forced them to blaspheme, and then locked them up to be executed. Killing Christians was not one of his weekend hobbies; it was the consuming passion of his very existence. He breathed the very air of slaughter. He was a very bad man.
His name was Saul of Tarsus. That man was absolutely, and totally transformed, and it wasn’t superficial. Now all of a sudden, this man who hated Christ started preaching Christ. The very people he hated before became his object of love. He called his achievements ‘filth’ and put the message of Christ on the highest pedestal. He who worked to please the crooks of Jerusalem became their fugitive. He was the hero of Jews once, and he became their archenemy. This fire-breathing killing machine who went from city to city tearing down churches became an unstoppable preaching machine who went from city to city establishing churches. A hating, angry, and bitter persecutor of Christ, transformed into a gentle, loving, and compassionate servant of Christ. The cruel heart that dragged women and children out of their houses and threw them in the prison and tortured them, turned into a heart of a nursing mother cherishes her children. The Christians who ran away and hid themselves fearing for their lives now fell in love with him. This man who sought to kill Christians gave his life for Christ. A brutal murderer became a martyr. A hell-bound rebel became a heaven-bound son. What a transformation? What in the world could change a man like that?
We know that the transformation of this man came through the change of his heart. On the road to Damascus, he had a lightning encounter with the living and true God, and his nature was changed instantaneously. It is Christ who transformed Saul’s life. Only Christ can bring such transformation into human life. Acts chapter nine, gives us insight into the basic pattern for transformed lives.
SIX Characteristics of a transformed life
Faith in Christ (V1-9)
It is faith that brought about Saul’s transformation. When Jesus Christ appeared to him in blazing glory, his natural eyes were blinded, but his spiritual eyes were opened, and he believed. There is no transformed life apart from Jesus Christ. Counseling and therapy won’t work; rules, disciplines, and punishment cannot do much; love isn’t really a useful commodity in transforming man’s nature. God has to initiate this transformation, God has to give the gift of faith to believe because the natural man cannot know God. God is sovereign in transformation, and it is a direct act of God.
Fervent Prayer (V10-12)
Prayer is the natural response to the transformed life. This isn’t the first time Saul prayed, but this must be the first time he got through. He used to pray like a Pharisee depending on his own righteousness. But, now he prays like a broken contrite sinner completely depending on God’s mercy. For a transformed life prayer is like breathing. you can’t hold it, you cannot hold your spiritual breath. It is a natural constant communion with God.
Filling of Holy Spirit (v17-18)
Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. Immediately upon salvation, the believer receives the Holy Spirit. There is only one baptism but many fillings. God sent Ananias for two things: to tell Saul that he would receive his sight and the filling of the Holy Spirit to do the ministry assigned to him. V18 says, Saul stood up and was baptized after receiving the sight. In the context, it is clear what Paul received was the baptism in the Holy Spirit, not the water baptism. Saul received Holy Spirit without the laying on of the hands of the apostles. Every other occasion in the book of Acts when people were saved they received the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit when the apostles laid hands. Continuous filling of the Spirit is part of the transformed life (Ephesians 5:18).
Forthwith service (v20)
Saul had been a believer for only a few days or weeks, and he started preaching immediately. He pursued the call immediately. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. He went into the face of those Christ-hating Jews in Jerusalem and started preaching Christ boldly. He didn’t care about his own life, and he knew that in every city imprisonment and afflictions await for him (Acts 20:23). God wants the believer to invest his life in the kingdom’s work right now. We are saved to serve. Of course, you need to prepare, you need to learn so that you can be a useful tool in the Master’s hand (2 Tim 2:21).
Fellowship with believers (v21-31)
The rest of the text tells us that his ministry in Damascus and his connection with the Jerusalem church. A transformed life is characterized by the fellowship with other believers. “If you really love the Lord, you will love the brothers” (1 John 3:14). Transformed life quit the fellowship from the ungodly and team-up with the other transformers. It’s a different team altogether now. Saul had to turn in everything. The people he formerly hated became his buddies and the people he formerly worked for became his enemies. Everything switched (v23-25).
Fearless apologetics (v22)
The man who confronts the unbelieving world with the power of the Spirit will find that persecution doesn’t weaken him; it only strengthens him; it fuels his spiritual muscles. Many Christians are heroes inside the four walls of the church building. They don’t want to fight for the truth because of the fear of persecution, or the fear of losing professional status. Saul went to Damascus to kill Christians, but a few days later, the Jews were after him (v23). Saul was fearless and passionate about fighting for the truth because he knew the transforming power of the Gospel.
The Transforming Power of the Gospel
Transformation is based on a historical fact of God’s redemptive history. It is outside of the man. It is not subjective; it is objective. Transformation starts at believing in historical, redemptive history. Once you put your faith in that fact, then God begins to move into your life and change your nature. And, then you begin to experience what God is doing.
Here is this historical fact that able to transform any wild sinner: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). It is not until you believe in what happened outside of you that God ever begins to do anything inside of you.
God is in the business of transforming lives. It is not like putting a new suit of clothes on a man. It is like putting a new man in a suit of clothes. It is not superficial and it is not a repair job. Transformation is a process of being conformed to Jesus Christ. When you believed, you received a new heart. Your nature has been changed, you became a new man and the transformation had begun. That will finally be completed when we see Christ face-to-face.