FROM PERSECUTOR OF CHRISTIANS TO PREACHER OF CHRIST
SAUL OF TARSUS (LATER, PAUL)
Saul of Tarsus was a Jew. He detested Christians and hated the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. To him “Jesus of Nazareth” was the despised Person Who eventually had been crucified outside Jerusalem. Saul personally wanted to stop the spread of true Christianity.
As the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death by enraged Jews, Saul was present consenting unto his death. He went from house to house to find Christians and put them in prison.
He later described himself as “a blasphemer, a persecutor and an insolent man.” (1 Timothy 1v13)
But underneath the bravado Saul was having pricks in his conscience.
As a Jew he endeavoured to keep the Law of Moses and to adhere to the 10 Commandments, but one of these commandments was troubling him. He read the words of the 10th Commandment “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20v17) and in the back of his mind he knew that he didn’t live up to this standard.
He was learning in his experience that no one can keep the Law of God fully, it only condemns us and makes us realise that we need a Saviour because we are so sinful - “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3v20)
Saul set out on a journey to Damascus with letters to arrest Christians and bring them as captives to Jerusalem. As he journeyed near to Damascus suddenly a light, above the brightness of the sun, shone around him from heaven, as he fell to the ground he heard a voice saying to him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul responded “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “ I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, it is hard for you to kick against the goads” So he, trembling and astonished said “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Read Acts 9v1-6)
He realised that the One Who died on the cross - the despised “Jesus” was the risen “Lord” in heaven and he accepted Him by faith as his Saviour and Lord.
Have you ever had a moment in you life when, as with Saul you realised that you were wrong and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? He can be your personal Saviour because He died and rose again to provide salvation for you.
What a change! The bitter persecutor of the Christians became a loyal follower of Christ!
We can follow him into the synagogues of Damascus a few days later and listen as he preached that Christ “is the Son of God” (Acts 9v20) something he would never before have acknowledged.
People were amazed at his change - they said “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” (Acts 9v21).
Over the next few decades he preached all over the known world spreading the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He never ceased to wonder that God’s Son came to save a sinner as bad as he was, he later wrote: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1v15).
As he thought on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ He marvelled that “the Son of God…loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2v20).
At the end of his life, as he faced a martyr’s death, writing to his friend Timothy he records, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1v12). He was confident of being in heaven even as he stared death in the face!
Would you have this confidence? There is no reason not to have, the Saviour Saul of Tarsus trusted is still available today.
Repent of your sins and trust the Risen Son of God and you will be in heaven forever.
FROM BLASPHEMER TO HYMNWRITER
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)
SINKING IN SIN
John Newton was born in 1725 in the City of London, England. He was the son of a sea captain who owned a number of private trading vessels. His mother died when he was 7 years old.
His father's ambition for him was that he should also go to sea. When Newton left school he entered into the sea-faring life with gusto, adapting to it's coarse language and ways. However when he came home from a voyage he would feel ashamed but soon became ill-tempered, longing for the sea again. His behaviour became worse and worse.
During a two year period of his life he went through a time of "religious reformation" after some of his friends had been drowned. He said himself later "I often saw religion as a means of escaping hell, but I loved sin and was unwilling to leave it". This is like many today. He thought that he could earn God's forgiveness by being religious! No one can do that. God gives his forgiveness freely if we turn from sin and trust alone on the Saviour. He gave up these religious attempts and became worse and worse.
Eventually he was press-ganged into the Navy. He attempted to desert but was caught and flogged. He blamed God for his predicament, and thus became more crude and hateful. He delighted in telling dirty and blaspheming jokes.
He subsequently was discharged and became involved in slave trading and further depths of moral debasement.
SAVED BY THE SAVIOUR
On 1st March 1748, the ship he was on, The Greyhound, left port in Newfoundland and headed for England. Newton was very uneasy as the ship wasn't very seaworthy after a long time at sea. On 9th March he went to bed after pushing a side a religious book, as says in his own words "feeling as indifferent to God as I had ever been", he was soon awaked by an awful storm at sea. Water was flooding into the cabin where he lay.
He went to help man the pumps, but was told to do something else by the captain, he then watched the man at the pumps being washed overboard. One side of the vessel was being battered by the waves, the water washing in faster than it was pumped out, the miracle was the ship wasn't under the waves.
As Newton began to realise their awful peril, he exclaimed "the Lord have mercy on us", and then the thought came to him "what mercy do I deserve?", he began to fear God. Questions of life after death and the reality of meeting his Maker pressed upon his mind. He later spoke of this experience. "I began to think of that Lord Jesus I had so often ridiculed. I remembered the details of His life and death, a death for the punishment of sins not his own, but for the sake of those who should put their trust in Him". He earnestly prayed to the God he had hated, for deliverance.
As the morning broke the storm started to abate, eventually Newton was in his cabin wrestling over the Bible. He found peace through trusting the One who he had so long blasphemed, the Lord Jesus Christ. He had found "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5v1). Have you found this peace?
Newton had not only been saved from sinking beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, but saved from his sin and the punishment that his sin deserved. If he had known the hymn, he could have sang:
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
SINGING A NEW SONG
What a changed man John Newton became! Eventually he became a preacher and a poet, writing some wonderful hymns treasured by Christians down the centuries.
His most well known hymn, AMAZING GRACE, shows how he viewed his salvation from sin. It all came from God's grace (his unmerited favour). Think on these lines.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
As he drew to the end of his long life he was heard to say, "My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things - that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour".
This change is not unique, down through the centuries of time many, many people have found the same Saviour and know what it is to pass from death to life by trusting Him.
"When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5v6)
"If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10v9)
FROM DRUGS TO CHRIST
PETER ORASUK (1948-2005)
Peter Orasuk became a drug addict. It wasn't that he had a poor upbringing or that there was any outward reason for it. In fact, he was an intelligent, scholarship winning student.
He was just proving the verse of scripture which says "All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned every one to his own way". It wasn't long before he had sunk so much that he would have sold practically everything he possessed to pay for the next "fix".
Soon he became embroiled in the murky drug underworld of Canada and he became one of the most feared men of his "area". He spent several stints in prison, to add to his infamous record.
For his own safety and that of his family he moved to Prince Edward Island, but needless to say, he was soon involved in much of the drug running on the island. But then a wonderful thing happened in his life, he came in contact with the good news of God's salvation.
A lady called to take his little girl to sunday school. This lady looked different and Peter watched her. He called her in and asked her "What are you?" To which she replied "I am a Christian", he later wrote "She told me that the Lord Jesus had died to take the punishment for her sins, and at the moment she trusted Him, she became one of Christ’s, and that meant a Christian."
Through her contact two men from a local Christian assembly went to visit Peter.
When two men called, he outlined to them his philosophy on life.
“You know, you and I like people stranded on a desert island. We have told ourselves that a big ship is going to come and take us off the island. That is what keeps us going from day to day – we have our big ship. This syringe is my big ship. It gets me from day to day. Your Jesus and your Salvation are your big ship, but really we are just in the same boat.”
One of the men turned to the Bible and started to read from Isaiah chapter 53, a chapter that speaks about the life, suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was just as if, for the first time somewhere in his dark existance there was a glimmer of hope.
However, Peter started to resist what he was hearing, he said "I know the Jesus story. Anybody could write something like that,” to which the man replied “But not 700 years before it happened, and besides, who told you it was talking about Jesus?”
Peter Orasuk later recorded, in light of this conversion "It just came to me that everything God said would happen, did happen, and I was afraid."
One of the men kept visiting him, he would tell Peter about God's love, how that He had sent his Son to die for him. One day this man called and with tears in his eyes he said “Oh Peter, salvation is not only the joy of receiving Christ, it is being delivered from a real hell. Unless you get serious about this matter you are going to die in your sin and go to hell.”
That night he went to a party, he tried everything to forget the man's words but they wouldn't go away. Eventually he said to an associate, “Billy, I have to go. I can’t stay here. I am going to hell.” Billy said, “We are all going to hell.” “But,” Peter replied, “someone told me there was a way out, I have to find it.” Billy said, “You go. I’ll cover for you. But if you ever get it, let me know.”
Peter then went to a bible study, any scripture the people seemed to read they said, "isn't it wonderful that there is no limit to the mercy of God?" After the meeting a man came over to Peter and asked him was he saved. To which he replied "No, but I really want to be saved, I don't want to go to hell".
He started reading Bible verses, but Peter couldn’t understand how he could know his sins forgiven. Finally the man said, “The Word of God tells you that the work that can take you to heaven has been perfectly done. If that is not enough, you will just have to go to hell.”
Peter thought, “I can never live knowing that I am going to hell with all the sins I will have to account for. I can’t live that way and I certainly can’t die that way.” He started to cry and said, “I don’t want to go to hell. Please help me.” “The Bible tells us that the very worst sinner is in heaven tonight because of the power of the blood of Christ,” he replied. “It’s too bad it isn’t enough for you.”
The Bible says "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Timothy 1v15)
As Peter was thinking on this it just dawned on him that the God who told him in the Bible that he was going to hell was also telling him that the worst sinner could be in heaven. At that moment he couldn’t think of one reason why it wasn’t enough. Not one. As low as he was, he realized that he could go to heaven because the power that was in the blood of Christ. Again the Bible tells us that if we are saved "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1v7).
Peter bowed his head and prayed “It seems so obvious and yet so simple that the Lord Jesus did it all and because of Him I can go to heaven. Lord, is that it, is that salvation?” He opened his eyes and looked down at the Bible and it said "It is finished" (John 19v30). It seemed as if God was saying, “Peter that is it.” Peter then cried to God, “Oh God, it is not fair! It is not fair that I should do all the sinning and He should do all the suffering.”
This moment of salvation was what changed Peter Orasuk completely. After that not only was he freed from his awful addictions by the power of the Holy Spirit within him and given new desires and new joys, but he went back to many of his former associates with the message of the Gospel and told them of God's love and Christ's death on the cross. He became a preacher of the Gospel throughout Canada and farther afield. He was a living witness of the power of God in this message of Good news.
You can experience the power of this message in your life as well if you trust in the Lord Jesus, who died for you and rose again.
The Apostle Paul writes "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1v16).
You can listen to Peter telling his own story of conversion by clicking on the following link.
All bible quotations on this page are from the NKJV, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Inc.