What Does The Apostle Paul Have In Common With Ebenezer Scrooge?

 
   
           
             
             
             
       

 

The Heart Of Christmas

Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol was released on December 19, 1843, and has never been out of print. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy, sour, stingy man who says, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas,’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding!” Yet, one Christmas Eve, Scrooge is radically changed into a generous and happy man. With great humor and insight, Dickens’ book captures the universal longing for inner peace.

As a young man, the apostle Paul opposed Jesus and His followers with a vengeful spirit. He “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). But one day he encountered the risen Christ, and his life became a different story (9:1-16).

In a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul described that life-changing event by saying, even though he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man . . . the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13-14).

Jesus was born into our world and gave His life so that we can be forgiven and transformed through faith in Him. This is the heart of Christmas!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought. —English carol
A change in behavior begins with Jesus changing our heart.

Insight

Though Paul’s words to Timothy in today’s reading are not one of the traditional biblical texts we read at Christmas, they definitely have application for this season. In verse 15 we read: “Christ Jesus came into the world.” This is a reference not only to Christ’s coming but also to His purpose for coming. Why was He born in human flesh? Paul answers that question by adding, “to save sinners.” Jesus’ coming was a mission of rescue for a race that desperately needed a Savior.

    1. doctor-perspective says:

      A brilliant, educated young man named Saul, entrusted with authority by the Chief Priests, gave his nod of approval as a convicted Jewish mob covered their ears, screamed at the top of their voices, pounced on Stephen, threw him out of the temple and stoned him to death. The sight of Stephen dying empowered Saul who swore that many others would die like Stephen. Now he made it his mission, with the authority from the High Priest, to discover and destroy all those who named the name of Jesus. As Christians scampered for cover, the mighty Saul marched onward, unstoppable in His mission of mass destruction of members of the Body of Christ. “…He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3)
      Not content with, and emboldened by the success of his massacre of Christians in Jerusalem, Paul obtained authority to extend the reach of his extermination of the followers of Jesus Christ, and to this end was travelling more than 150 miles to Damascus. Suddenly… a light, brighter than the brightest sun shone around Him, knocked him to the ground, and the voice of God Himself spoke to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

      Instantly, dramatically, Saul was converted. The destroyer of the Church was ready to build the church. The persecutor was ready to be persecuted, and the assassin to be assassinated. His direction was changed and so was his name; but his zeal, far from abated, grew even fiercer as he relentlessly preached the message of reconciliation wherever he went.

      There are some of us who have had dramatic conversions, but few if any would have been as dramatic as Paul’s. The light that shone around him was brighter than the mid-day sun. (Acts 26:13) God spoke directly to him out of heaven, not just to his spirit, but audibly to his ears, so that others also could hear the sound (Acts 9:7). But the hint of the magnitude of Saul’s sin lies in the words of Jesus. “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5) To persecute God’s people is to persecute God; and that is as close to perdition as one can get. It was only because of the grace and mercy of God that Saul was not consumed. When Paul characterized himself as the chief of sinners, he knew what he was talking about. And yet, until we surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ, we too were fighting Him and making a mockery of His death for us at Calvary. For as long as we were not for Him, we were against Him.

      Regardless of our social profile before we were saved, with Paul, we had one thing in common. We were born in sin, conceived in iniquity, and on our way to hell. Some conversions are more dramatic than others but all are works of grace, through faith and justification, resulting in reconciliation. Furthermore, the journeys on which we embark after conversion are remarkably similar as we share a common arch-enemy of our souls, and are empowered by the same Holy Spirit in our lives.

      It is at this stage that we can join the Apostle Paul and say, “I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” In fact, like the Apostle Paul we can all testify that to this day, we are still relying on the mercy of God to forgive us and rescue us from thinking and saying and doing things that we know we should not be doing, and do not want to do. Then we daily rely on Him for the desire and strength to do what we know we should be thinking, saying and doing (Romans 7:14-25).

      Also, like the Apostle Paul, Christ Jesus has appointed each and every one of us to Ministry, and for that special ministry, has equipped us with Spiritual Gifts and with the Holy Spirit. As we daily do battle with the Devil and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, we join with Paul in 1 Timothy 1:17 and say, “To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen

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