Paul got it right with Jesus. He got things correct in terms of understanding. He had things reconciled in terms of acceptance and relationship. And he became an imitator of his Lord. The resolution of understanding and acceptance happened on that day when he met the Lord Jesus face-to-face. The relationship and imitation had also begun.
Paul, formerly called Saul, was a zealous Pharisee convinced he was serving God by threatening, imprisoning and murdering Christians. On trial before a Roman governor for preaching the gospel, here’s how Paul told his story:
Acts 26:12 “Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles–to whom I send you 18 to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19 “Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles.” 24 And as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth.”
This is a great story. It is filled with human passion. It contains divine intervention. It demonstrates the consequences of conversion and fierce resistance by the very people Paul once worked for and was now trying to save. His incredible turnaround and consequent preaching campaign were regarded as madness. But Paul was on the right track: he had personally seen and was obeying the resurrected Jesus. Read his story again and savor the drama, the awe and the outcome.
There is a comparable account of Paul’s conversion and resultant hostility in Acts 22:6-29. God had both accounts written down for our instruction. So what can the reader learn from the text? That if you get to become or continue to be a disciple of Jesus, you need to:
- understand who Jesus really is, and what his being the risen Christ means to you.
- accept the truth and its consequence by taking action:
- stop pursuing your own way; it might be a radical reversal. In Paul’s case, it was misguided religious zeal & murder that had to be repudiated!
- repent, i.e., change your mind, turn around and go God’s way.
- be baptized in obedience to the commandment of Jesus, as well as following his example.
- rejoice in the reward of being:
- saved through faith in Christ Jesus
- born anew
- reconciled to God
- a son or daughter of God!
Then you get to excitedly tell others what you have learned and have experienced with the resurrected Jesus. Some will believe and also discover the joy found in Christ. Others will resist, mock, and/or persecute you. But Jesus knows what is going on, having been through it before. He will provide the strength to endure and get through any trial. And should you be put to death for his sake, Jesus knows what that is like too. He can make you alive again, just like God did for him.
To get it right with Jesus, the information source must be trustworthy. God’s Book is the primary and authoritative source about Jesus. The writings of men are secondary because they are non-inspired. The whole of Scripture is God’s message to humankind. In this workbook, therefore, I have cited and applied both Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) verses, since both sections have equal value as the word of God.
Simply owning a Bible is of no value unless you read it, and then ponder what you have read. The next step is Bible study, i.e., investigating the meaning of the text. The goal of researching Scripture to find the truth about Jesus should not be viewed as an academic exercise nor should it be seen simply as ammunition to prove someone else wrong. Rather, personal Bible study is a lifetime pursuit aimed at getting aligned with God and the salvation He provides in Jesus. The effort involves learning and training that is immediately put into practice. The outcome is a person fully-equipped to do right and be right before God, just like Jesus.
Here’s how Paul described the effort-outcome to Timothy, his young comrade in Christ:
2Tim 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Here’s an example of how application of Scripture to oneself should work. A friend at work and I had periodic discussions about the Bible, and Jesus’ story of the “sower” came up. It is a parable about the different kinds of soils into which seed [the word of God] was sown, and these soils represented a different kind of person. For example,
- some people hear the gospel preached, but don’t understand or want to understand, so the word of God cannot even begin to grow in their heart,
- some hearers of the word do understand, but then tough times or other things get in the way, and spiritual growth is either short-lived or choked,
- and then some hearers open themselves up fully, and the spiritual yield can be 30, 60, or even a 100-fold.
Since Jesus provided an interpretation of his story, I told my friend I would draw him a chart that illustrated Jesus’ explanation. It would also provide a useful visual aid to present my particular viewpoint. The chart looked like this:
|The Story||The Interpretation|
|Type of Soil||Response / Outcome||Hearing and… yet… but… and||Response / Outcome|
|1. The seed fell on the path||The seed was trodden under foot, and the birds (of the air) came and devoured it||When anyone hears the word of the Kingdom and does not understand it…||the evil one (devil) comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart (that they may not believe and be saved)|
|2. The seed fell on rocky ground (not much soil)||Immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had to root (and no moisture), they withered away||This is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy…||yet he had no root in himself, but endures (believes) for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word (or in time of temptation), immediately he falls away|
|3. The seed fell among thorns||The thorns grew up and choked them||This is he who hears the word…||but the cares of the world and the delight in riches (and pleasures of life) choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (i.e., it does not mature)|
|4. The seed fell on good soil||It brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty||This is he who hears the word and understands it and accepts itÉ and holds it fast in an honest and good heart,||he indeed bears fruit (with patience), and yields in one case, a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.|
Now I had always – and presumptuously – imagined myself being mostly “good soil”, with periodic problems “among thorns”, a few occasions “on rocky soil”, but hardly ever “on the path”. This presumed that I was entirely a 4, 3, 2 or 1 at any one point in time. This is erroneous thinking. In reality, I could be several different soil types simultaneously. For example, on a given day, my “evil self” could shut my mind to what God was saying, my “shallow self” could give up pursuit of a difficult project, my “thorn self” could pretend that my distractions were not impacting spiritual growth, and the “good self” would be bearing fruit. The same person could be a mixture of all four soils at the same time.
This conclusion came as a bit of a shock. I was kidding myself that I was a “good soil” most of the time. Previously, I had figured that the variation of the 30, 60 and 100 was simply reflective of my good, better, and great days. Now I wondered whether the lower numbers were due to my being closed-minded, fearful and/or self indulgent.
But whatever the numbers mean, two teachings are clear:
- While it is right to point to Scripture to show others the truth of Jesus, a disciple must continue to be taught as well. In my example, I still needed to be reproved, corrected and trained by my reading and study of the Bible.
- There are three critical steps to take before fruit is produced:
- understanding the word,
- accepting its truth, and then
- holding it fast.
When a disciple does this, “he indeed bears fruit”. The outcome is certain. When a believer’s life is well-cultivated, the seed will surely grow and produce spiritual fruit in abundance.
Alignment of the three dynamic elements of Getting it Right with Jesus with the three critical steps required to bear fruit for God, is deliberate.
- First you need to understand who Jesus was. Just hearing about him is not enough.
- Second, you need to accept his call to follow. Intellectual comprehension of what Jesus said and meant is pointless unless there is action taken.
- Third, you must seek to imitate what Jesus taught and did. This is the life-time standard for and expectation of all his disciples. Here’s what the Bible text says:
- Jesus provided this criterion: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34).
- The apostles demonstrated this charge to love and the command to preach when they stood together boldly before the very men who had demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. At first, their inquisitors saw only uneducated common men, and wondered at what they saw; and then “they recognized that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
- Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1Cor 11:1).
- Faithful continuance to the end of your life is vital: “For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end” (Heb 3:14).
The Diagram below was the core of a series of talks called “Basic Bible Teaching” that I presented at a friendly evangelical church in 2005. The material of that series has now evolved into the primary content of this workbook. I decided that a workbook with full-size pages best served the purposes of presenting the information as well as acting as a personal resource manual for the student disciple. All the information was designed and provided for you the reader to get it right with Jesus.
If you have any comments or questions about what is taught in this workbook, you are invited to write me at 904 Woodview Ct, Mahomet, IL 61853-3623. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be pleased to hear from you.
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