"The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee."
Thoughts for Today:Recently my wife Sherry and I returned from a medical/evangelical mission to Quito, Ecuador. Over the week we were in Ecuador our team worked in 5 different villages, witnessed to over 1,700 people and led 700 of those villagers to profession of faith in Jesus Christ. It was a miraculous mission -- one I will not soon forget. It was also Sherry's first mission, first evangelical effort, and first trip outside of the US. Those are pretty big "firsts," made even bigger by knowing my wife is both very shy and highly fearful of travel to foreign countries. However, she overcame those limitations and found peace and joy because she committed to place her trust only in the Lord.
My wife has been a Christian for a long time, yet clearly the Lord wasn't finished with the work He began in her so many years before. You would be amazed at the growth she has experienced. Throughout the time in Quito she was never afraid or hesitant to share her faith -- it is truly amazing how much God can do with us if we let Him have His way. Two passages come to mind: 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love"; and Philippians 1:6, "...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
In our passage today, Paul recites the history of his early life, "...I lived as a Pharisee." Aren't you glad that Paul didn't stop growing right there? We know he had a life changing experience on the road to Damascus when he met the Lord for the first time (Acts 9:3-6). Sherry met Jesus a long time ago, but His work in her (and all of us) continues to this day. On this mission trip she experienced great joy because she surrendered her shyness and fear to Him -- but that doesn't mean He has finished the work He began in her. Are you allowing Jesus to continue His work in you?
Questions to Ponder:A church I am familiar with has this phrase as part of their mission statement: "No one stands alone, and no one stays the same." Are we "in Christ" if we aren't growing? We certainly don't lose our salvation, but we can certainly stunt our growth if we don't remain in Him. John 15:4 says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." Sherry "remained" in the Lord and He grew her in ways she could never have imagined. If you are not growing, prayerfully ask yourself these questions, "Have I ignored an area of my life I need to address? What has impeded my growth? Have I remained in the Lord?"