Often people have a very specific ambition. It may be to become a political leader, be an outstanding artist, to do well in sport, etc. To excel in any field one does not only need talent to do it, it also requires years of intensive practise. Such a thing becomes that person’s passion which occupies his life.
Paul’s passion was to be a good Pharisee. He was convinced that Jesus was a false prophet and that’s why he became a fanatic persecutor of the church of Jesus: In the meantime Saul (later called Paul) kept up his violent threats of murder against the followers of the Lord (Acts 9:1). Later Paul addresses a crowd and says: (I) was just as dedicated to God as are all of you who are here today. I persecuted to the death the people who followed this Way. I arrested men and women and threw them into prison (Acts 22:3, 4). Paul told that after there had been a great turnabout in his life. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest men as well as women and bring them to Jerusalem. Paul tells what happened then: “As I was travelling and coming near Damascus, about midday a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute,’ he said to me.” (Acts 22:6 – 8).
Paul’s life then changed completely. He had a new passion. It made him the greatest missionary of all time. His life changed from being a persecutor of the church of Jesus to a victim of persecution in that same church. It wasn’t easy. It required considerable sacrifice. Paul writes: We have been beaten, jailed, and mobbed; we have been overworked and have gone without sleep or food (2 Cor. 6:5). That is what he exchanged the life of a Pharisee, with all the glory attached to it. He never looked back however: But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:7 – 8). At first his passion was to obey the law, as given unto Moses, in order to be acquitted by God thereby. Later he realised that his salvation cannot be achieved through own merit, but through the love of God in Jesus. The love of Christ took hold of him to such an extent that it became the new motive in his life. He writes: For the love of Christ controls (urge) us, (2 Cor. 5:14). Note that it is the love óf Christ, not fór Christ. When Paul speaks of the love of Christ he doesn’t speak of our love for Christ, but of the love Christ has for us. It is the power which took hold of Paul’s life when he realised: Christ loves me. For me He was beaten, for me He wore the crown of thorns, for me He was nailed to the cross. The love of Christ gripped him so much that he let go of everything to spread the gospel. The gospel that he preached is that God Himself in his great love had come to save us, through what Jesus had earned on the cross: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:32 – 35).
The love of Christ does not only exist as a mental concept or a bit of knowledge, it is a power that grips and changes you so that you can say: I can never be the same again. You become another, new person. Paul writes: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
Our heavenly Father, we thank You for the love of Christ. Let this love bring us to a point where we can say: I can never be the same again. Amen.