There was something eerily alarming about stepping into the small 6 x 8 foot box. It had only a small opening to let in the natural light from a window across the room. It was dark, damp, confining, and seemingly complete as the door was pulled shut! Talk about a blast from the past, standing in the same cell that housed some of the most infamous criminals of all times. Capone, the Bird Man, and the others who had lived in the box. Don’t worry, I didn’t live a secret life as a criminal mastermind. Instead we were visiting Alcatraz Island. Made famous by movies, books, and a host of inmate escapes it now receives millions of people a year. Even as we took the tour inside the prison, my son asleep in his stroller, listening to the audio tour, there was something relieving about walking out the doors of solitary. I went through the guard station and out onto the veranda, feeling the sun beat down on my neck, as I looked out at the San Francisco Bay and felt the salty air hit my lungs! There was something about being inside a prison that made freedom all that more appealing. With freedom again assured, we had to decide What’s Next?—so we went to Ghirardelli Square and got ice cream.
What to do with freedom? Some prisoners upon their release finally get that home cooked meal they were waiting for or cheeseburger, but after the glow of freedom wears off each person male or female, young or old, has to decide what to do with their freedom—what they are going to build with the time they have left.
Over the last two weeks, we have taken a journey of sorts towards a different type of freedom, freedom from sin and the bondage of slavery. We have been looking at the Building Blocks of Discipleship, the characteristics that allow us to Love God with our entire being and love our neighbors as ourselves. We saw the building blocks of discipleship come together starting with what we believe but also how we belief, as an identity rather than just an idea. We saw last week the need to be transformed, looking at what we are becoming through the power of the Holy Spirit, and today (WITH A NEW HEAD, NEW HEART, WE) turn to the 3rd building block: Trying to BUILD a new life loving our neighbors! In a world of terrorism, unrest, and uncertainty the urge can be to pull back from the world, but what we are going to find today is that changing the world begins with…
Your Conversion, giving your life and allegiance to Christ. Conversion to Christ has motivated for some to stand up against terror and has been powerful enough to change some that terrorized.
Diet Eman who is now 95, was young and in love living in the Netherlands when Hitler’s paratroopers invaded. Separated from her fiancé she focused on her faith in times of flourishing evil. Historians estimate that between 50,000 and 60,000 (many, like Eman and her fiancé, motivated by their Christian faith) were active in the Christian Underground—hid or smuggled Jews out of harm’s way and more than 10,000 sacrificed their lives in the cause. Diet helped save 80 of her Jewish neighbors transporting Jews to farms around the country, walking them stolen ration cards and provisions, including having to go into hiding herself.
Fighting terror to the life of a terrorist.
He was a man of action. His superiors turned the dirty work over to him because they knew he would get results, and he most assuredly did. Some he had them dragged out of their houses, others he had imprisoned, still others murdered by the mobs he had fomented. He worked under the guise of governance and God, providing documentation as he had them arrested, others he had murdered, but his goal from the beginning was to cleanse the world of those he hated. Regardless of whether you know it today, you’ve have most likely have bought one of his writings and are familiar with his story even though he has long been apprehended, imprisoned and killed. You most likely have known him as the Apostle Paul.
Galatians 1:11-13, 15- I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it…But when God who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man.
From belief, becoming, to building. Saul became Paul, from terrorist to evangelist. He found a new identity and freedom from his fanatic follow through against Christians. Experiencing God’s grace allowed him to be a conduit for Christ. Setting out on a new adventure—deciding that his new life would be dedicated fully and wholly to BUILDING up that which God valued and giving others a chance to meet Christ as he had on the Road to Damascus.
What makes the Christian message so powerful and personal is that the Road to Damascus can run through every city and town, every village or jungle. Paul’s story details may different, the century may change, the continent may be unique, but the conversion isn’t. Maybe you are thinking—this isn’t for me—but if not for you, then who? Christ came for you, died for you, and defeated death for you. Whether it was terror to freedom, confined to fresh air, maybe just self-focused to selfless. It is a story that has been told across the centuries and yet one is never like another—your conversion—giving your life to Christ must be in place before you can build anything that is lasting or be part of anything enduring. What was your life like before you knew about Jesus, before you started walking with Jesus? In one word—Mine was aimless, but now I can take aim at something bigger than myself.