Paul, seen by many as the Great Apostle, said to be the founder of the Christian faith with over two billion adherents 2000 years after its inception, was by all accounts a remarkable individual.
He was passionate, determined and focused. But then he had a unique conversion, didn’t he? One minute he was leading a pogrom against the followers of The Way (one of the names given to first-century Christians), and it seems the next minute he had committed himself totally to the promotion of the faith to which he had been opposed.
Contemporary China missionary Ross Paterson described him thus: ‘He was as committed to filling pews after his Damascus experience as he was to emptying them before it, but he never sat on one!’
Paul is credited with writing at least half of the New Testament ( more if you believe, as some do, that he also penned the letter to the Hebrews) and so it is reasonable to attach significant gravitas to the things he said and wrote.
In his first letter to his ‘son in the faith’, Timothy, he had harsh words for the Christian leaders who would appear in the last days. He accuses them of abandoning their faith and following deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
Here’s what he wrote: ‘In later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.’
There’s a couple of questions that come to my mind when I read that.
How does someone who at one time was described as having a faith, come to a point where they abandon that faith and then go on to follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons?
Paul’s answer to that is, ‘Gradually’.
Imagine burning yourself with a hot iron. The pain would be intense, but then when it heals, if you do it again it would hurt a little less, and if you keep doing it the time will come when there is no feeling. It’s as if the scar has become the body’s defence mechanism to numb thepain.
Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t speak to us as he used to. We cast our minds back to a time when he did. But often what happened was that he encouraged us, ever so gently to do something. Maybe to forgive a wrong done to us, or to speak a word of comfort or perform an act of kindness for someone we didn’t like too much, and we turned a deaf ear. We didn’t want to hear his voice, and so the next time he spoke our hearing had become a little duller, to the point where he speaks and we hear nothing.
Can we get back to that place? I think we can, but we must want to be re-sensitised, we must be prepared to trust.
Go back to that place where we lost contact. Tell him you want to hear, and do you know what will happen? He will honour his promise: ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13).
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