My morning devotions this year consist of reading a thru-the-New Testament-in-a-Year Bible. Which means that since Summer, I’ve been re-reading Paul’s letters to the Romans, the Corinthians (both letters) and now to the Galatians.
Most people know Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles (thus all these letters to people not in Jerusalem). Most Christians are familiar with the story of Paul’s (formerly known as Saul’s) conversion in Acts 9.
Something dawned on me recently about Saul’s conversion. Most people seem to think that it was from non-believer to believer, but that’s not really it.
Saul was already a believer, just not in Jesus as the promised Messiah. Saul believed in God. “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” Philippians 3:4b-6
Saul was a zealous believer. He believed that it was his duty to defend his faith and to enforce God’s laws. But once Saul became Paul, once he had “seen the light” (literally, Acts 9:3), he realized that God doesn’t need defending, that Jesus Himself was the only one to ever completely fulfill God’s laws and that faith wasn’t something handed down by bloodline that needs to be protected or enforced, but a gift from God’s Spirit.
Saul was about law. Paul was about Gospel. Saul was about anger and hate and fear. Paul was about service and sacrifice. Saul was about condemnation and exclusion. Paul was about consolation and inclusion. Saul was about circumcision. Paul was about faith.
Instead of seeing himself proudly as God’s enforcer, he realized with humility that God’s “…grace is sufficient for you, for [God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
In other words- It’s not about Saul/Paul. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about us. It’s about God’s love. His grace. Jesus’ work on the cross. Not our work. Not Christianity’s work. Him. Not us. It was never about us. It was only FOR us.
Paul didn’t get converted from non-believer to believer. I prefer not to think of it as from Jew to “Christian” either. I kinda think he was converted from fixed mindset to growth mindset. From enforcer to disciple. From religion to relationship.
According to Carol Dweck’s bestseller, ‘Growth Mindset,’ those with a “fixed mindset” are certain that they either know it all and don’t need to learn anymore, or are certain that they can’t learn, grow or succeed and are therefore hopeless. Whereas those with a “growth mindset” are humble enough to know that there is always more to learn.
Similarly, eminent psychologist William Glasser in, his choice theory or reality theory, believed that there are two kinds of behaviors; controlling and connecting. Like fixed mindset people, those who spend their energy controlling others tend to blame, accuse and condemn. These people look only toward their own self interests.
Whereas those who work toward connecting with others take on responsibilities even when they aren’t obligated to (Christ-like, kinda like Philippians 2:1-18).
It’s not about right and wrong. It’s not about good and bad. It’s not about relative and absolute. It’s about faith, hope, and love. Grace, mercy, and peace. Forgiveness, compassion and fellowship. Mostly, it’s about love.
Jesus said that you can tell a tree by it’s fruit. John said that you can tell Christians by their love. I’m no Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but I think that you can tell the difference between a religious person and a disciple by their mindset.
If you think God needs you to to expand his kingdom by writing His law into legislation or by preserving traditions or protecting His plans. If you think you need to control or maintain power over this sinful world for His sake… You’re religious.
If you know that God’s power is made perfect in your weakness. If you recognize that there’s nothing you can do, but instead that there’s nothing God can’t do through you. If you understand that true leadership is only accomplished through servant-hood… you’re on the road to discipleship.
We’re saved only by God’s amazing GRACE, though faith in Him- so no one can brag or boast or be proud about what they’ve done for God. They can only be humbled, amazed, grateful and maybe flabbergasted by everything He uses us to accomplish with, through, for and in spite of us! (Ephesians 6:8-10)