In the book, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis shares a childhood story about one of his favorite teachers, Mr. Kirkpatrick. A brilliant teacher and personal friend of Lewis’s father, Mr. Kirkpatrick was the one who taught Lewis how to be a merciless debater by building a strong logical case…one that would be hard, if not impossible, to defeat. A staunch atheist, Mr. Kirkpatrick wanted to strengthen Lewis in his own beliefs.
Yet years later through Christ’s grace and deep friendships with Christians, C.S. Lewis began questioning his atheism and within a few years, became a Christian himself. Because of his early training by Mr. Kirkpatrick, Lewis was an amazing debater and God used his former training for good as C.S. Lewis became one of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith in the 20th century.
What man intended for harm… God intended for good. –Genesis 50:20
In some ways, I feel Paul is a little bit like C.S. Lewis before Lewis became a Christian. Both men were very well educated and trained at a young age to defend their “beliefs” and oppose the opposite side. Both men were all-stars in their worlds of academics with high expectations from those who trained them.
“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”- Galatians 1:14
Paul was the Jew of all Jews. He was the elite. He had the education and the pedigree… and he knew it.
Because of the pride in his heart, Paul was blinded to the truth.
He was a man of religious deeds and was an amazing religious rule-keeper. So focused on being right and persecuting those he felt were wrong, Paul missed the big picture of what God was doing in the world…redeeming it through Jesus Christ.
And yet in Galatians 1:15 we see how God had set Paul apart from birth, preparing him all along the way for the exact purpose of being one of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith of all time.
Nothing from Paul’s past was unused.
The pride that had driven him to be the best, the most worthy and the moralist, now was replaced with God’s grace. God in his amazing redemption used all of Paul’s past experiences, failures, and zealous pride to break him and then equip him to be the very man to build His church – the very church Paul once persecuted.
“The Old Testament knowledge, the zeal, the training, the effort he was using to oppose God and his church all were being used by God to break him and to equip him to be God’s instrument for building his church. God had been working all along to use Paul to establish the very faith he had opposed (v 23).” – Tim Keller
What a powerful reminder to all of us today: NO ONE is too broken for God’s redemptive grace!
If God can take a man like Paul – a man who was filled with pride, who hated Christians and even killed them – and turn his life around, how can we ever doubt He can’t do it again?
May we never forget we serve an amazing God who redeems the religiously prideful just as He does the lost. No one is too far out of reach for our Lord to touch with His amazing love and grace!
Let us take courage and find delight in the mighty way God worked through Paul’s life to redeem his past and bring hope for his future! Just as God extended redemption to Paul, He does for us, too. God takes our sins, our past misunderstandings, our previous training and brings purpose to it all.
May we not be afraid of our pasts and the sins we wish we could erase, but rather allow God to redeem them for His glory just like He did in Paul’s life!
Love God Greatly!
Week 4 Challenge:
This week, spend time praying every day for the “Saul” in your life, asking God to intervene in this person’s life and redeem their past for Jesus’ glory! And have hope sweet friend, God turned Saul into Paul and He can do it again!
Week 4 Video:
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Week 4 Memory Verse:
Week 4 Reading Plan: