Intimacy with Christ
By Roberta Kittrell
Have you ever wondered how the Apostle Paul could be in prison so many times and for so many years and, during these times, be so victorious in his spiritual life? Could where he was placed at the time be a vital key – in prison? While there, his time was not filled with the noise and busyness of everyday life.
Many of us are awakened in the morning by either the snooze alarm, the television, the telephone, and/or the coffee maker, to face an already-scheduled day. Often we will have time to do nothing more than send up a hurried prayer to God asking Him to help us get through this busy day. We can get to the point where we feel like saying, "Whoa! Stop the world. I want to get off!"
Some of us have already learned, by experience, the benefit of scheduling at the beginning of the day, an essential time alone with the Lord – before all else, except maybe the cup of coffee.
A study of Paul's writings, especially the book of Philippians, shows us the key may well be the phrase "in Christ" or "in Christ Jesus." Paul had far more than just a greeting/request relationship with Jesus. He awoke in Christ Jesus, lived his day in Christ Jesus, and went to sleep in Christ Jesus. Paul had something we may lack and need greatly – intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It began, while he was still Saul, with the Damascus Road encounter with the Lord, and Saul's conversion.
(When I was young in Christ, I would read the Scriptures and continue on without pausing to let them sink in and grasp the significance. An illustration of this is Acts 9:20-30 through to Acts 11:25.) The following soliloquy enables us to grasp the length of the Lord's preparation of Saul/Paul…
Lord, as I sit here in the quiet and solitude of blindness in the house of Judas, on the street called Straight, I feel as though I am a totally different person. My name has not changed. I'm still Saul of Tarsus. I shudder now to think of what I've done. And yet, You saved even me – surely the chief of sinners.
It is good that I've had these three days of blindness which have enabled my mind to stay on You. God, there was none more devoted to You in service than I. You were the center of my life. There was no other.
I who "was circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee totally steeped in self-righteous tradition; concerning zeal, hunting down and persecuting [followers of the Way]; concerning righteousness which is the law, blameless." (Philippians 3:5-6)
Yes, I was devoted to You… No, wait… not to You but to the antithesis of You which we Pharisees sought to impose upon You. God, I had heard of You. I sat at the feet of Gamaliel. I heard the testimony of Stephen, and, God forbid, I consented to his being stoned to death! I watched over the cloaks of the self-righteous ones who did not want their throwing of the stones hampered by their long robes.
Then I continued zealously pursuing those who were members of that sect called the Way. I believed there was no greater offence to You than for one to reject You (the You I thought You were) by being a follower of the Way.
Lord, what have I done!
What? You have washed my sins away? Your Blood wiped the slate clean! I am Your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works preordained for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Ah, yes. Though I am temporarily blind, I am now seeing things more clearly than I ever have before. All that I have learned from the Torah and through Gamaliel is Your Word. But I need to realize that Your Word is fluid. It can't be bound by all the hypocritical limitations and interpretations imposed upon it by the stiff-necked Pharisees and the Sadducees. Your Word is the Living Word as lived and expounded by You, Lord.
Take me, all of me. Everything I am and everything I am not. I am Yours, Lord. Do what You will through me, O Lord. That is my greatest desire.
What? Ah, yes…welcome, Brother Ananias.
* * *
Who? Oh, I see, Brother Barnabas. Forgive my taking so long to arise to greet you. I see we both wear the years that have elapsed since the other brothers and you assisted in my escape from Jerusalem to Caesarea, where I boarded a ship bound here to my homeland of Tarsus.
Please take this stool and join me. I remember everything as if it were today. You may recall that, after God used Brother Ananias to restore my physical sight at the time He was giving me spiritual sight, I went about Damascus passionately preaching Christ Jesus. It didn't take long for those at the synagogue to be aroused and turn upon me. The brethren lowered me over the wall in a basket, and the Lord made good my escape.
The Lord used my learned trade of tent-making to provide for my meager needs as I communed with Him and bore witness for three years in the desert of surrounding Nabatean Arabia. Then He led me back to Damascus for three more years.
It was then time for me to return to Jerusalem – not the old me who had left six years before, breathing fire against the followers of the Way. Not I, but Christ in me. Thanks to the Lord's leading, you Brother Barnabas became the go-between and Brothers Peter and James met with me. And I preached Christ in Jerusalem, but not for long. Understandably, the priests, scribes and Pharisees considered me a traitor – a turncoat – and a blasphemer, coming after me with a vengeance. That escape, enabled by you and other brethren, brought me back here to Tarsus some ten years ago…
I received such a wonderful welcome from all my family. None was more proud than my father – proud of his son, Saul, scholar of the Torah… I knew it would sever relations with my family, but I couldn't keep silent about our Lord. How I wanted them to also know the Savior, the Messiah! Immediately I was disinherited and considered as dead.
Thanks again to the omniscience of our Lord, my learned trade of tent-making has served me well here on the street called Tentmakers. My needs are few and simple. And the Lord has enabled me to more covertly bear witness of Him. He had showed me that, just like in the early ministry of our Lord, it was not yet my time – that I was still in the period of preparation.
The Lord has made me rich in Him! I believe I am ready for whatever He wants to do through me. To do His Will is my greatest desire…
* * *
Now resume with Acts 11:25….
Roberta J. Kittrell a.k.a. "Miss Bobbi" is a widowed grandmother and a great-grandmother of five. Saved at age 30, she believes God used the next 38 years to grow her in Him. She aligned herself with John the Baptist who, speaking about Jesus Christ, said "He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30, NKJV). Her greatest joy and heart's desire is to share Jesus Christ with the lost, to be used by Him in His saving them, and/or to nurture and guide those who are young in the faith. Reading a book written by Rev. William Woodward – a fellow laborer in jail/prison ministry – triggered the above Bible study.
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