Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The Bible is full of stories of redemption, but there is probably no bigger turnaround in scripture than the one that happened in Saul's life: He went from being the leading antagonist to God and His work to being the leading advocate for God and His work. He went from being the hunter to being the hunted. How did he get there? One step at a time.

Paul's life was turned around in dramatic fashion, but also in steps. The Christian life is a journey, not a single event. Paul's turnaround went through various phases. Acts 9 is a time-elapsed picture of the spiritual journey.

Alienation Stage: Paul starts out going down the road, going about his business, but he doesn't know that God is there, and that God is going to ambush him.

Attention Stage: Something happens that gets Paul's attention. A light flashes around him. He sees what he has never seen before.

Listening Stage: God starts to speak to him (the others with him don't hear it, but Saul does). The message is personal, from God to Him. He hears what he has never heard before.

Searching Stage: Paul realizes he's blind. He is led by the hand for several days, and God reveals more of His plan.

Acceptance Stage: By God's grace and through the ministry of others God touches Saul, fills his heart with His spirit, and transforms him. The scales fall off his eyes. He's radically saved.

For Paul, a turnaround that at first glance appears instantaneous, involved days of searching, and months of discovery. It takes time to come to the end of an old belief system, and embraced a new one. In their book, "What's gone wrong with the harvest?" James Engel and William Norton developed a scale that charts a person's progress through the decision making process to faith in Christ.

10. Awareness of the supernatural
9. No effective knowledge of Christianity
8. Initial awareness of Christianity
7. Interest in Christianity
6. Awareness of basic facts of the Gospel
5. Grasp of implications of the Gospel
4. Positive attitude to the Gospel
3. Awareness of personal need
2. Challenge and decision to act
1. Repentance and faith

We all start at the same place. We might have an awareness that God is there, but we do not know Him personally. We all go through the same stages to get to faith in Christ. There's a temptation to think that with salvation you flip the switch and the lights come on. Many times it is more like the old vapor lights used in gymnasiums.

Christian growth is simply taking the next step, which makes ministry helping people take the next step. Ministry is "meeting people where they are with what they need to get them where they need to go." We have to take people where they are. We don't get to have them where we want them to be. We give them what they need, and that is love, acceptance and forgiveness. We take them where they need to go, toward Jesus.

Oh, and one more thing. We need to pray people through each step. Every step toward God is a minor miracle.

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