“They also know I was there when Stephen, your witness, was killed. I stood there agreeing and holding the coats of those who were killing him!” (Acts 22:20).
I was singing on the worship-team at church this morning, and we sang the song “Oceans”. I looked at the words last night and felt uneasy about them, but I went along and sang some of them. I felt peace as we prayed before the meeting and that God wanted me there, but:
“In oceans deep my faith will stand;
“I’ll keep my eyes above the waves” – it seems a bit boastful and self-focused to me. I’d rather say that when I’m out of my depth, I’ll trust God to complete His work in me, and I’ll call on His name to keep my eyes above the waves (because I haven’t always done a very good job of it myself).
And then my pastor got ready to preach and someone read the verse above. I had never noticed before that Paul publicly confessed his part in Stephen’s death. My pastor went on to talk about how Jesus had utterly transformed him, and how Paul had completely changed his belief-system. It reminded me of Abby Johnson, the former director of an abortion clinic who’s now pro-life, swapping from one side of the fence to the other. The ridicule they must have had to endure from people who were once close friends.
I don’t think Paul would have sung a song like “Oceans”. There are lots of things I admire about Paul – his passion; his commitment; his willingness to confront wrongdoing, but I’m also impressed with how humble he is. He doesn’t hesitate to say: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). He knows that of himself, he’s totally unworthy of anything God could give him. He’s absolutely missed the mark. He’s nothing, and yet God loves him completely.
And it’s the same with me. If I lived every day according to my old nature, I would be an angeraholic, and yet God called me to something better.
“God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished” (Philippians 1:6).