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Monday-Previous Way of Life



For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.


Galatians 1:13,14


Where and how we grow up has a tremendous influence on us. I grew up in an Italian kitchen with my mom’s homemade spaghetti. Not this “stuff” made in a machine or squeezed between stainless steel rollers. No, it was all handmade. The flour and eggs were mixed and rolled by hand on a wooden board with a wooden rolling pin. It was then hand rolled and cut into individual spaghetti strands using a Chitarra[1].


Yes, I like to go out to restaurants with my wife and friends. And yes, I’ll even go to Italian restaurants. But I will NEVER order their spaghetti. Period. I’m so used to the way my mom had it that anything else is an insult to her memory. And don’t get me started on ravioli!


Now Paul wasn’t raised in an Italian kitchen, but he had an upbringing that influenced him greatly. He was raised and schooled in the ridged school of ritualism. He had advanced degrees in it. He was sent away to school to study it[2].


His whole life was focused on obeying rules. The laws and rules were found in two places. First, the Jewish scriptures; our Old Testament were God’s instructions and dealings with the Jewish nation. Second, the sacred traditions as detailed in the Talmud.


And he became so dedicated to obedience to the Jewish laws that he relentlessly went after anyone who said or did anything against it. In his mind, there was only one solution to anyone who went against his beliefs, his background. It was the final solution: to arrest and kill them.


Now Paul didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll get me some Christians today and that will be the end of it.” No, he went after them and kept going after them. Day after day. From town to town, he traveled to ruin and destroy them. He had one thing in mind: find them, arrest them, declared guilty, and then kill them.


He was like a violent forest fire. He was burning up with anger and passion to get these lawbreakers and destroy them. Like a raging fire, he left behind a path of destruction that would not be soon forgotten.


All of this is to say that there is no way that Paul would leave his background and tradition on his own. There was no teacher that was going to convince him. There was no human argument or logic that was going to change his mind. It had to come from God and God alone.


And who was he going after? Christians. Or, to use Paul’s own words, the church of God. They were the focus of his persecution. They were the only ones in the sight of his spiritual target.


If you look at Paul’s life, it was made up of two very different halves. The first part is his traditional life, fueled by anger at anyone that dared to think differently. The second part is after meeting the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus[3].


There was no gradual change for Paul He was on one side of the fence, comfortable in his traditions. And then, he’s an altogether different person. There was very little similarities between the two.


Which brings up a potentially convicting question; how’s the two different sides of your life? Is there a time when you came to Christ that radically transformed your whole way of life? Is there a tipping point that completely changed your life from “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see?”


If yes, then praise God. Now that you started on the road of life with Jesus, you need to keep it up. Nurture it. Feed it. Encourage it. Grow it. Pull out the weeds and stones that are stopping it from growing.


But if there is not a point where you can look back and see where Jesus became real to you, then you need to ask yourself a question. Have you started your journey with Jesus? Have you given yourself over to the only one who truly loves you enough to die for you? To pay the awful, eternal price that brings you back to God?


Paul saw a difference that changed the entire direction of his life. A difference that started when he met Jesus. Have you met Jesus? It may not be on a road through a blinding light, but Jesus desperately wants to meet you right where you are. He died to bring you and God back together again, where you belong.


So, what’s stopping you?


Noodling Questions


  • How would you describe your previous way of life?

  • What was something that had you intensely?

  • What changes have your family and friends seen in your life?

[1] https://youtu.be/5-UhmAFy53E?t=67 [2] Acts 22:3 [3] Acts 9:1-8

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