For the second week of our Galatians series, we read from 1:11-17:
“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Paul tells the Galatians the turning point in his story; the moment in his life when he chose a different identity. In Philippians 3, Paul calls himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews”; he was a very pious and ambitious Jew. But what happened? What was the key game-changer in Paul’s story? What does he say happened that forever altered his life?
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither nor drank.” Acts 9:1-9a
Jesus revealed Himself to Paul.
I have often heard of other conversion stories similar to Paul’s; where people actually heard or saw Jesus and the whole experience changed their life. I don’t deny those claims, but I must point out that they tend to lead people to certain expectations. We start to believe that at some point Jesus will validate our faith and reveal Himself to us. I’ll tell you from experience: In nearly 10 years of being a Christian, this has never happened.
Turning points vary from person to person. My own turning point didn’t actually happen until I had started college. And I was watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air when it did. What does that mean for the previous 4 years of going to church? Do they suddenly become irrelevant? No; that time period was simply my “seeking” period.
Even though I hadn’t felt the inward revelation, I hadn’t actually seen Jesus, and I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I was seeking something. My point is this: Whether or not your turning point has already happened, you are in the best time period to seek Jesus. High school and college are the best eras to find out who you really are and what your true identity is.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened,” Matthew 7:7-8
Sometimes God knocks on our door, like he did for Paul. But other times, we must do the knocking. Where are you? Are you actually here to learn about who you are and what you’re purpose is? Or are you like I was – showing up, not knowing what to look for, but knew there was something to find? No matter which describes you (or even if there’s a third possibility), you have the opportunity to knock on God’s door. Take advantage of it.
My encouragement to the high school kids is the same I have here: Pray, think, and meditate over where you are in your personal journey. Are you walking with Jesus? Are you diving deeper into God’s wisdom? Or are you, like all of us at some point, caught in a routine and are just showing up to church because that’s what you’ve known? God is relentless; even if you’re 50 years old, He’s still pursuing you. He may interrupt your life like He did for Paul’s, or He may interrupt someone else’s life and have you spectate. But, as Jesus promises, if you ask, seek, and knock, you will help the whole process of finding Jesus.