22 I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches in Christ; 23 they simply kept hearing: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
~Galatians 1:22-24, HCSB~
We must be willing to let our past play the foil to our present in order to demonstrate the transformative power of Christ in our lives.
Even when we know we have been forgiven and set free from past sins, the Enemy wants to keep us shackled to the shame of our past. Satan wants us to fear what others would think of us if they found out about our failed marriages… That we’d been in prison… That we’ve been victims of domestic or sexual abuse… That we’ve had an abortion, or more than one… That we’ve been addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, porn or self-harm. Because Satan fears the effect our testimonies will have on those still in his grip.
There are people out there, there are people in here—inside the church and in our lives—who are still addicted, still afraid. Feeling helpless. Feeling hopeless. We can tell them there’s hope in Christ. We can tell them Jesus sets us free. But all the while, a voice inside their head keeps repeating, “Not me. Not after what I’ve done. Not after who I’ve been. I’ve messed up too much. I’m too messed up. Damaged goods.”
Show them who you used to be. Tell them about your own past and how Jesus rescued you “out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire” (Psalm 40:2, NLT).”
We see the great Apostle Paul, writer of the most books in the Bible; author of the profound theological treatise, Romans; he who was “caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:4, NLT); God’s “chosen vessel” to preach the Good News to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, KJV). And we say, “that could never be me.”
We see the Apostle Peter, Jesus’ right-hand man; the rock upon which Christ would build His church (Matthew 16:18, NLT); the man whom the Great Shepherd chose to feed His lambs and tend His sheep (John 21:15-16, NKJV); the man whose Holy Spirit-fueled sermon claimed 3,000 souls for the Kingdom (Acts 2:41, ESV) and whose jailhouse hymns brought forth an earthquake (Acts 16:25-26, NLT). And we say, “that could never be me.”
We see the Apostle John, the beloved disciple who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper (John 13:23, NIV); the steadfast believer who, according to tradition, couldn’t be killed, even by boiling in oil; the aged exile to whom was entrusted the Revelation of Christ. And we say, “that could never be me.”
Moses, the most humble man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3, HCSB); a man to whom God spoke “face to face” (Numbers 12:8, NIV); the man used by YHWH to work His wonders in Egypt and lead the entire nation of Israel out of bondage.
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah; the prophesied “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23, KJV); the first prophet following 400 years of silence; the flesh-and-blood cousin of Jesus (Luke 1:36, NIV).
And we say, “that could never be me.”
But, when we see Paul as Saul the religious zealot; the enforcer of Jewish law who hunted down, dragged from their homes, and imprisoned men and women because of their faith (Acts 8:3, NLT); who “intensely persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13, NIV); who kept watch over the robes of the men who stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58, NIV). Then we say, that could be me.
When we see John nicknamed a “Son of Thunder” by Jesus (Mark 3:17, NLT); wanting to “call down fire from heaven to destroy” a Samaritan village that didn’t welcome them (Luke 9:54, NIV); and having a mother who petitioned Jesus to give him a higher position in His Kingdom (Matthew 20:20-21, NLT). Again we say, that sounds a lot like me.
John the Baptist, a prophet about whom Jesus said no one greater had ever lived (Matthew 11:11, NLT), was a weirdo who lived alone in the wilderness eating strange food and wearing odd clothes (Matthew 3:4, NLT).
And suddenly we can say, “Why not me?!”
Don’t be afraid to show people just how far you’ve come because of Christ. Revelation 12:11 says that we will overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Paul was famously vocal about his pre-conversion exploits and how a personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus forever changed the trajectory of his life (Acts 26:9-23, NIV). When we humbly admit what Christ saved us out of, His light shines brighter out of the darkness of our past.
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…”
~ John 4:39, NIV~