The road to Damascus
As he continued on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
— Acts 9:3-5, ESV
Ever since the Pharisee Saul became the Apostle Paul, we call it the “Damascus road experience” whenever a really bad person comes to good faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But the truth is, every truly born-again Christian has their own road to Damascus.
I used to hear preachers say often that to become a Christian you have to take the first step and then God will do the rest. That’s right, if you recognize that the first step is to sin. Pharisee Saul certainly did his part. Although dressed in sheepish religious garb, Saul was a voracious and sinful wolf who hated the body of Christ, the church; therefore, he hated the Lord Jesus Christ. But Jesus loved him and gave him grace.
Shining brighter than the sun, the Son of God convinced Saul of his many sins. Even with this bright, blinding Christophany on the road to Damascus, the gospel still had to be presented and explained by one beggar to another. So not only did God appear personally to Saul, but he sent a man named Ananias. As a trained obstetrician, he helped Saul to be born into the kingdom of God and the New Testament church.
It should also be pointed out that Saul was saved because he was chosen by God, because of the great grace of election. As Paul realized what it meant to be “a chosen instrument” of God in later years, he would write inspired letters explaining salvation, from election in past eternity to security in the past. future eternity, better than any other biblical writer (ref. Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14; etc.).
While salvation is all of God and all of grace, it makes room for free and voluntary human choices that matter, for eternity. Saul stopped persecuting Christians and no doubt repented to a degree of other sins. Saul believed the good news of the life, death, resurrection and, in his case, the reappearance of Jesus Christ. Saul was voluntarily baptized and became a member of the church he had once tried to destroy. And so Saul became Paul, with many more decisions to make, and a redemptive story to tell that will encompass half of the New Testament.
If you are a true Christian, your road to salvation may not have been called Damascus, but it was practically the same road. Compare the experience of an average Christian to the astonishing conversion of the apostle Paul.
Your first step, like Paul’s, is to be confronted with your sin, your sins, and your sinfulness. Until this fact and its terrible consequences of separation from God, certain death and eternal punishment are understood, the bad news will never give way to the good.
No one can know God unless God reveals Himself to them, and the Holy Spirit’s two favorite tools for revealing the gospel to mankind are the word of God and a testimony for Christ. Ananias helped Paul come to Christ. In my case, it was a freewill Baptist preacher named Bill. Who testified to you? Who are you going to testify to?
Every Christian comes to Christ the same way. The intellect is engaged, the emotions are triggered, and the human will enjoins the will of God in repentance and faith. The proof of saving faith is found in the readiness and willingness to be baptized and become an active part of the church of Christ.
The “Damascus Road Experience” teaches us many things. No one is so sinful that he cannot be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. No one is good enough not to need a miracle of grace to be saved. And while God is sovereign, and no one will be saved except by His sovereign grace, He always saves anyone, anywhere, anytime, when they “call on the name of the Lord.”
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]
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