Of late there have been many Christian writings that have incorporated the word radical in their titles. Radical is defined as “marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional, tending to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, or conditions.” Other words that carry the same thought would include: far-reaching, deep-seated, drastic or major. Looking at the meaning of radical and its synonyms, it is not hard to link the word with Christian.
The Bible expresses a radical change this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). These words were penned by a man who knew what it was to become a new creation. Indeed the change that took place in his life was radical. His name at one time was Saul but when he came face to face with Jesus Christ he was so changed that even his name changed. We know him as Paul the Apostle.
The story of his change is found in several places in the New Testament. It is first told in Acts 9. Take a moment and read that chapter; as you do ponder the change. As well, consider the possibility that the change evident in Paul’s life, though radical, is not out of the ordinary but the norm. Consider the question whether it is possible to have a casual change when encountering Jesus.
Saul is first introduced in Acts 7 as a minor player in the stoning of Stephen. His role in that event was watching the robes of those who were taking part in the killing (7:58). He is mentioned again at the beginning of Acts 8 where we read, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” (8:1) However, the part of the story that stands out about the man does not concern his past life but his changed life. This is the thrust of Acts 9.
The chapter opens with “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” (v.1) Like a wild animal with a taste for blood, Saul was on a rampage. He hated the Church. His upbringing told him that anyone who messed with the religious system was an enemy that needed to be destroyed. He was one described by Jesus when He said, “an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2)
However, this study is not about the era persecution Saul brought against the Church, but rather the change that came to him as a result of it. Step One of Saul’s change to Paul came on his way to Damascus in order to arrest more Christians (v.1). As he drew near the city he ran smack into Jesus Who had a question to ask him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (v.4). Saul was dumbfounded and probably more than a bit terrified. He responded, “Who are You, Lord?” in which Christ responded, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” (v.5)
Step Two in Saul’s change came when Jesus told him what to do next and he did it. Did you catch this step in verse six? “Get up and enter the city,” Jesus told him and Saul did just that (v.8). After hearing the call of Christ, Saul needed to follow the command of Christ. As well Saul had to be willing to listen and obey, “and it will be told you what you must do” (v.5).
There was one more step to complete the work that Jesus began when he confronted Saul with his sin. To complete this step Jesus called on a believer living in Damascus. His name was Ananias. To this man Jesus said, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” (vv.11-12) Though hesitant, for he knew who Saul was and why he was coming to his city (vv.13-14), Ananias obeyed the Lord and went to Saul and healed him of his blindness.
Somewhere between his confrontation with Jesus on the road and Ananias’ visit Saul in Judas’ house on Straight Street, Saul’s life was changed and with that life-change came a name change. But consider this; the name change was the least of Saul’s changes. The persecutor became the preacher. The hater of the Way became a lover of Christ. And one day the killer of Christians would be killed for his Lord. This one that Satan tried to use to destroy the Church would write letters to encourage and strengthen the Church. Thirteen of Paul’s letters are still doing just that today as God placed them in His book we call the Bible.
Radical. It’s the change that comes into the life of anyone who is confronted by Christ and does what Jesus says to do. There are no casual conversions. If a person is not radically changed concerning their worldview, life-goals and especially in their relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, well, that person is just not changed.
What might a radically change life look like? The answer is found in the Acts 9 story and the answer has a name, Ananias. He risked his life and the life of others in the Damascus church when he obeyed Jesus and went to minister to Saul. He was willing to die if that what Jesus required. But even more he was willing to live out his walk with Christ regardless of the risk. Ananias was radical.
It is time for Christians to understand that salvation brings radical change and that change is to be lived out loud. Are you radical?