The apostle Paul experienced this change of heart before he became one of the great evangelists and writer of much of the New Testament.
Paul, who was called Saul at the time, was said to be a good Pharisee. He was very religious, and did everything he could to protect Judaism. He did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah and considered the Christian movement to be dangerous. He stood by and witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He hated the Christian faith and persecuted believers.
Saul's meeting with Jesus happened on the road to Damascus. He was travelling with the sole purpose of Christian persecution.Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard the words, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" The voice was that of Jesus, long since crucified, resurrected and glorified. When Saul got up from the ground he was blind and had to be led by hand into Damascus. The Lord sent a believer named Ananias to him to share the gospel.Saul believed, was filled with the Holy Spirit, got up with restored sight, and was baptized. He endured beatings, hardships, and threats, but spent the rest of his life proving that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:1-31)
Matthew was a tax collector. He worked for Rome, collecting tax from the Jews. In his role, if he collected more than was owed, he could keep it for himself. Tax collectors were known to extort large sums of money. He was rich and led a comfortable life. Matthew was sitting at his tax collector's booth when Jesus passed by. Jesus said, "Follow me." Matthew immediately got up and followed. He invited Jesus to eat at his house and invited his tax collector friends to meet the Savior. Matthew walked away from his lucrative career. He spent the rest of his life following Jesus. We know Matthew from the gospel he compiled. (from Matthew 9)
I remember when my heart was hard. Without Christian education, I turned and searched other paths. I insisted on my own way and made my own rules. I was without hope until the day I met Jesus. It was not as spectacular as a blinding light from heaven or as immediate as Matthew's decision to leave everything. But, I know someone had been praying for me and they didn't give up when it seemed I would never believe. One day, I met Jesus. My heart was changed and more than that, I was given a new heart and a new life.
Are you waiting for someone to change? Think of that someone who is hard to love - the one who seems to be speeding down the path to destruction. We are tempted to believe that they will never change. We are very tempted to give up on them, look the other way, and focus our attention on someone more worthy.
Only God knows every heart and only he can change it. A meeting with Jesus can happen at any moment. It may be on the road or at work or during a church service or a silent meditation.As Christians, our part in God's plan is to keep on praying for that change of heart in the unlovable and the hopeless.
When the nation of Israel had ceased to follow him and had turned to other gods, God said that he would bring them back. He would produce an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them. He would take away their stony, stubborn hearts and make them tender and responsive. (from Ezekiel 11:19)
I am thankful that God didn't give up on me and that whoever had been praying for me, never gave up. I was blessed to experience a change of heart.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
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