Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:21-24 (NIV).
“They praised God because of me:” those words would look good on a tombstone. In fact, they should be on Paul’s. Or yours, or mine. For a follower of Jesus, such a compliment as this would be the best possible thing anyone could say.
During yesterday’s middle school lesson, we talked about “before.” The context of our lesson was from “The Chosen,” talking about the episode where Nicodemus asks Mary Magdalene about how she came to be saved. Her response is a modern-day extrapolation from the quote above. She said, “I was one way and now I am completely different, and the only thing that happened in between was Him.” Mary was reflecting what the apostle Paul would say only a few years in the future.
She was giving praise to God because of Jesus. Paul was aware that others were praising God because of his mission to preach about Jesus. And that mission came about only because Jesus first saved him. In other words, Paul was one way before Jesus, and after Jesus he was different.
You and I could say the same things. I know many, many people who could tell you stories about a life they led before Jesus and the life they lead now. And we each know people who have been followers all their lives, who don’t have a conversion story to tell. Yet even they can probably tell you of a time when they first realized it was all true. That they believed for a long time but came to a point where it suddenly sank in, where the light bulb came on, that it was true. That Jesus did indeed die and rise for them. That everything He said and did was real. That He asked them to follow Him.
They had been one way before and now are a different way after. When people know that, others are watching. Other people can see the difference. Most important, other people see that it’s true as well. And they praise God because of them.
Those words would indeed look good on a tombstone. But, perhaps, the better tombstone would be a living one, a living testimony that others come to faith, learn about Jesus, because of things we say and do. That’s what we can be: living witnesses that we believe all this is true. Rather than just words on a stone, these are the best monuments we could ask for.
For further reading: Mathew 9:8, Luke 2:2, Acts 6:7-9, Romans 16:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Galatians 2:1
Lord Jesus, may I be Your living monument today.
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