This Lenten season God has been guiding me in an in-depth study of 2 Timothy. As with all things, God opens the doors of opportunity, and we have to make the choice to walk through. The first door He opened was the opportunity to attend IF: Gathering via a livestream event. IF exists "to equip women with gospel-centered resources, events, and community so they may learn more about who God is and disciple other women right where they are." The two day event was transformational, and opened my eyes and heart to the study of the gospel. It gave me a taste of what was to come.
The second door he opened was a ladies' Bible Study at my local church. Entrusted, a study by Beth Moore, is focused on 2 Timothy as well. God was lining things up and giving me all the signals I needed to wake up and pay attention! I dove into Entrusted excited for the journey ahead.
Initially I thought perhaps God wanted to show me how to grow in discipleship like Timothy but, He showed me His intention was to have me follow the apostle Paul, Timothy's teacher, mentor, and trusted friend. As God revealed Himself in the pages of my Bible and the margin notes of my Bible Study, I kept wondering, "Why Paul?" The answers to that question were humbling and awe inspiring.
Before he became known for his dedication to the gospel of Christ, Paul (or Saul, as he was originally known) was a devoted follower and practitioner of Jewish law. A Pharisee by training and ancestry, Saul was educated, privileged, dedicated to his religious roots, and even more dedicated to the persecution of the early Church. His zealousness for the Law made him oblivious to the truth of Jesus Christ initially. Saul was dead set against anyone who dared speak of Jesus. His entry into Biblical narrative is dark indeed, as we find him approving of the stoning death of Stephen (see Acts 7:58 - 8:3) and "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1-2).
Saul and I have more in common than I realized. Educated, privileged, experienced in a certain way of walking in the world, blinded by our constructs of humanity. Jesus continues to open my eyes much the same way he opened Saul's: Do you see it yet? The life you are missing out on in lieu of the facsimile you've constructed? Stop living by your rules and learn to live by mine.
It gives me great hope that someone with a heart as dark as Saul's could be saved, redeemed, and become a forerunner for Christ. Saul's conversion breathes hope into my life: heart, mind, body and soul. There is a song by Brandon Heath that says, "give me Your eyes so I can see / everything that I've been missing / give me Your love for humanity."
I imagine these words were similar to Saul's prayer after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After hearing Jesus' voice and seeing the light from heaven, Saul - now blind - went into a period of prayer and fasting (Acts 9:9). While I can only speculate, I imagine Saul was asking God for wisdom and clarity about what he had just experienced. Perhaps he was praying for healing? While we may never know the exact nature of his prayers during that time, we can see the effects that encounter had on his life. He was changed completely.
The Gift of a Clear Conscience
When Paul writes to his beloved Timothy he says, "I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day" (2 Timothy 1:3). Paul understood that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was not just a sin offering, but also a guilt offering. Beth Moore states it beautifully: "Until we let Christ's work on the cross not only save our souls but cleanse our consciences, our own self-destructive tendencies will unwittingly team with the devil to bully us with bouts of mental torment... A guilty conscience... sets you up for self-sabotage." This resonated with me.
How long have I been hanging on to guilt when Jesus has already paid the price for me? How often have I prayed for grace, but not accepted it when it was freely offered? How many times have I built up the walls of my own prison, instead of becoming a prisoner for the gospel like Paul?
What's Your Motivation?
As I continue to study Paul's words, steps and impact on the world, I am drawn to this question: "What's my motivation?"
I am learning that love is the catalyst that moves us from operating on our own strength to living in Christ and finding strength in God. Good deeds mean nothing without surrender to God's love. Even the best of intentions can go awry if we don't look to God first for guidance, wisdom and discernment. Paul's intention to squash all believers was far from pure. We can see from his own God-breathed words, though, that grace changed Paul. No longer an enemy of the Church, he became one of its greatest advocates, led by God and his own desire to do God's will. Nothing else mattered.
Grace changed Paul, transforming his life and changing his trajectory. He willingly became an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. He knew Christ personally. This is the greatest joy any of us can ever experience.
God's inexhaustible grace holds me when I am exhausted, lost, and can't figure out which way to turn. When I am mired in my own selfish thoughts, grace unfolds around me, covering me like a warm blanket.
Jesus continues to speak through this Lenten season. He breathes life into the Word, and continues to reveal Himself in new ways. He shows up in the small details and the big picture. Knowing Jesus has become my motivation, the only motivation that matters.
Karma writes from the golden house in Northeastern BC. You can connect with her online at redraincoatcreations.com