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Obsessed With Persecuting

Acts 26:9-11
'I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 1 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord's people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.' (NIVUK)

Paul was not proud of his past, before meeting Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:9). In his persecution of the church, many believers suffered. Some lost their lives (Acts 22:4). Although it was a refining period for the church, a lot of grief came to many godly people. Looking back, Paul could see how blindly arrogant he was, more obsessed with his own power than the righteousness of his cause.

Of course, he did not do this alone. He took the initiative and then asked the High Priest for his permission – which was gladly given. It seems that he was given the right to go into any synagogue and track down Jews who also believed in Jesus (Acts 9:1). He then threatened and bullied the believers into speaking against Jesus, forcing them to say that Jesus was not the Son of God.

Paul's obsession took him outside the geographic boundary of the country to wherever Jewish people met. It was on one such mission, to Damascus, that Jesus confronted him on the road (Acts 9:4-5). It was a day which changed Paul's life. He realised that Jesus was indeed God, the Son; and therefore, he had been wrong. Perhaps, that was why he included these comments in his gospel address to King Herod Agrippa II. The king, in addition to his incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice, was also obsessed with power – like his predecessors (all named Herod). Agrippa also needed to repent … to change and have a new heart.

Obsession is a dangerous thing. Although it can always justify itself, it is never just. It has an inherent blindness of truth and consequences, propelled by personal evil desires; and encouraged by the Evil One (James 1:13-15). And even believers can be blinded in one area of life or another (Romans 2:4). Is there any way through this quagmire of unrighteousness? Yes; Paul let the Lord Jesus shine His light upon Paul's darkness. Repentance on our part is the only solution, matched by forgiveness on God's part, and from those we have sinned against. Agrippa needed to hear that message: so, also, do your friends and colleagues. There is free forgiveness through Jesus – not for the proud but for the repentant. As you share what Jesus has done for you, some others will seek His forgiveness too.

Forgiving God. Thank You for helping us to identify our wrong obsessions and for Your promise of forgiveness when Your people are repentant. Forgive me for all my sins and I ask that You shine Your light deeper into my heart so that I may repent in areas where I was previously blind. Please help me to humbly share, with friends and colleagues, Your goodness in bringing me to repentance and assuring me of Your forgiveness: so that they may have hope in Your love. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams