A Verbal Microcosm (5)
[I] am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1.12
How do people convince us to do something other than what we’re currently doing? Let’s examine this a bit.
Let’s assume you’re not doing what someone thinks you ought to do. Could be anything: You’re not eating the foods you should; you have a habit of arriving late to work; you don’t watch enough sports on TV; you wear out-of-style clothing; you don’t spend enough time reading; whatever.
Why do you do these things others would prefer you should not do? You might have many reasons which you consider good enough. You like the foods you eat. You don’t like having to fight rush hour traffic. You prefer to work in the yard rather than watch sports. Your clothes haven’t worn out yet. Reading’s too hard. To you, your habits and ways of living make sense. They work just fine.
But it may be that you could eat better; coming to work on time might benefit the whole company; you might find sports refreshing or inspiring; a new suit might suit you; reading could change your life.
But you are what you are and who you are, and you do what you do because of many years of built-up practice. If you’re going to change your ways, you’ll first have to change your mind – how you think about your life – and your desires – your longings, hopes, and aspirations. Advertisers know this. So do people who love you enough to encourage you to consider your ways (Hag. 1.7).
The discipline others employ to change your mind and heart is persuasion. Those who would persuade us aren’t just looking for agreement. They want to see change: Eat better; be prompt; read a book; and so on. They don’t want to see you do something perfunctorily, or merely for a season. They want you to change, and change permanently for the good, at least as they see it. They want to change your thinking and your desiring, so that the change that comes into your life will last.
Persuasion works from the inside-out to achieve lasting change in our lives. Paul said that believing in Jesus, committing himself entirely to him, and increasing in the knowledge of Jesus persuaded him that Jesus would keep, guard, and treasure all that he had committed, even through to the day of judgment and beyond.
What effect did being thus persuaded have on Paul?
Let’s ask first, How did Paul come to be persuaded about Jesus? The short answer is, Scripture and experience, but not in that order.
Why did Saul (soon to be Paul) change his mind about why he was going to Damascus? What persuaded him not to go and drag Christians off to jail, but to become one of them, and to preach Jesus to the people of Damascus? First, it was his experience of Jesus on that Damascus road. Saul was so hardened in his heart against Jesus that it took a convincing encounter to get his attention – a blinding blast of light so powerful that it knocked him to the ground did the trick. This experience of the power of Jesus was accompanied by the Word of Jesus: “Why are you persecuting Me?”, and the other instructions Jesus gave him.
Paul’s experience of Jesus persuaded him to hear His Word. Obeying His Word led to a further and confirming experience, that of being cared for and baptized by Ananias, who, in turn, brought a further Word from Jesus for Saul.
Experience and Scripture: This is how the Lord persuades us. Think of Peter, with that net full of fish in Luke 5. Or Nathanael, marveling at Jesus’ Word to him in John 1. Or Thomas. Or the people of Samaria, the Ethiopian eunuch, the governor of Cyprus – even your own experience of coming to Jesus. He came to you in the power of His Spirit (Gal. 4.6); perhaps you felt your heart strangely warmed as He took up residence in you and began to lead you into His Word (Lk. 24.32).
The more Paul searched the Scriptures from his new vantage point of believing, committing to, and knowing Jesus, the more he knew Jesus as a living Presence in Him, willing and doing of God’s good pleasure. Reading and meditating on Scripture deepened his experience of Jesus, which, in turn, drove him to dig even more deeply into the Scriptures for more of Jesus.
This left him persuaded – persuaded that his belief was sure, his commitment was firm, his knowledge was true, and that Jesus would strengthen his faith, keep firm his commitment, and increase and sharpen his knowledge regardless of what may have been happening in his life. Thus, Paul was able to continue believing, enlarge his commitment, and expand his knowledge in the confidence that doing so would help him fulfill the Lord’s calling in his life. He could run his race, fight his fight, and fulfill his calling without fear that any of this, no matter what it might have cost him, would have been in vain.
Seek to be persuaded
For Paul, being persuaded did not lead to some smug and lifeless conviction that he was going to heaven when he died. Persuaded that nothing could wrest from the guardianship and care of Jesus either his faith, his whole-life commitment, or his increasing knowledge of the Lord, Paul continued to invest these day by day in his calling as an apostle, making the most of every opportunity to glorify God in everything he did.
How persuaded are you about Jesus and His calling? Is your mind set on seeking His Kingdom and righteousness? Is your heart devoted to knowing Him and obeying His Word? Do you daily commit yourself to the good works that accompany salvation, and to growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord? Are you persuaded that nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus? Nothing can prevent you from living as His witness? Nothing is better than that you should devote all that you are and have and do to serving the Lord for His glory?
Is your mind fully engaged in your faith in Jesus? Does your heart long only to know more of His Presence, promise, and power? For if you are not persuaded of these things, not convinced that Jesus is keeping and improving these in you, then your mind and heart will become prey to other persuading voices, and your time, talent, treasure, and opportunities may be squandered rather than invested for eternal glory.
Want to be persuaded like Paul was? Pray your experience of Jesus back to Him daily. Open your eyes to see His goodness all around you, and give Him thanks. Read and meditate on His Word until you hear His voice, see His glory, and discern precisely what He has prepared for you to do. Jesus is able to persuade you that giving Him your all is well worthwhile.
1. What has persuaded you to follow Jesus? Do you find that you become more persuaded day by day? Explain.
2. Why must our minds and hearts change before we will be persuaded to change our ways?
3. How does God use us in persuading others to follow Jesus?
Next steps – Preparation: Pray your experience of Jesus back to Him, giving Him thanks and praise, and seeking His will for this day.
T. M. Moore
Resources for the Journey
If you missed our ReVision series, “We Would See Jesus,” you can download all four installments by clicking here. Our newest book, What in Heaven is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to “see Jesus” as He continues His work at the right hand of God. Order your copy by clicking here. For a sweeping study of the unseen realm and the world to come, order our workbook, The Landscape of Unseen Things, by clicking here. And you can learn how our Celtic Christian forebears saw Jesus by working through the 28 days of meditations in Be Thou My Vision (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.